PHILIPSBURG:---“People like to be asked, and people like to be thanked.” These were a few words echoed by our former Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Traffic and Telecommunication and current Member of Parliament, the Honorable Ludmila de Weever right here at Port St. Maarten, just 11 months ago as St. Maarten and the Royal Caribbean Group launched our joint Homeporting Venture with Celebrity Millennium. These 11 words continue to resonate with me as we celebrate such a historical occasion on this 11th day of May 2022, just past 11 AM, 11 plus years after becoming a country within the Dutch Kingdom.
A pleasant welcome and good morning Honorable Prime Minister, Colleague Ministers, Honorable Member of Parliament Ludmila de Weever, Regional Vice President of Royal Caribbean Group, Ms. Wendy McDonald, Management of Port St. Maarten, Division Head of Labor Affairs and Social Services Mrs. Peggy-Ann Dros-Richardson, the National Employment Service Center Team, the Department of Communication and invited guests.
We are gathered here today at the Dr. A.C Wathey cruise facility to witness the cementing of an even deeper partnership in the interest of the people of St. Maarten. Today, a dream is coming to fruition. Today, with the signing of an MOU Partnership agreement between the Government of St. Maarten and Royal Caribbean Group, up to 1000 job opportunities are made available to the people of St. Maarten and can extend within the Dutch Caribbean.
Today, history is made as for the first time ever, the people of St. Maarten are welcomed into cruising careers onboard the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. This marks another significant economic milestone that will not only rejuvenate St. Maarten’s economy but will also afford opportunities for our people, from Line entry to Executive level positions.
So where did we start?
In the early part of 2021, I approached the then Minister of TEATT Ms. Ludmila de Weever, inquisitive of the possibility for St. Maarten to be a part of the many nationalities that work onboard cruise vessels. With the Minister being busy with the preparations and negotiation of homeporting, I wondered if the Royal Caribbean Group would be open for this venture.
Without skipping a beat, Minister De Weever quickly made arrangements and introduced me to RGC Vice President, Mr. Joshua Carroll at the Government Administration Building. In discussion with Mr. Carroll, I quickly learned that the timing of the inquiry was impeccable as RCG has a great interest in adapting a workforce with more persons from the Caribbean considering their brand name proudly bears the name “Caribbean.”
This was of course music to my ears and soul because this is a dream of mine dating back some years.
With great excitement, I approached my colleague Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour the Honorable Omar Ottley, and the Division Head of Labor Affairs and Social Services Mrs. Peggy-Ann Dros-Richardson for their support of this project. Their response was nothing but a full endorsement, support, and commitment to see it through, and here we are today.
I cannot leave here today without letting you know that this project has been a dream of mine for this country. Have you ever been on a cruise, met people from all over the world and wondered what it would be like for the people of your country to have access to such jobs? For persons from St. Maarten to be able to sail, see the world, and develop their hospitality skills in the cruising industry. This is exactly what it is for me.
As such, I say Congratulations to the people of St. Maarten! My hope is that this achievement will be embraced as a great opportunity of expansion in our job market and that same will be seen as an opening for St. Maarten to do great things, not just here in our hospitality realm, but also as part of a global experience.
In closing, I would like to thank Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor, my Honorable colleague Omar Ottley, my colleague Ministers for their immediate support and great enthusiasm with this initiative, and the Ministries of Justice, VSA and General Affairs.
I want to express my profound gratitude to the Division Head of Labor Affairs and Social Services Mrs. Peggy-Ann Dros-Richardson and the team at National Employment Service Center for their professionalism, enthusiasm, attention to detail, thought process, support, and overall genuine approach to bringing this all together. When we sign today, it marks the beginning of a huge undertaking by Mrs. Dros-Richardson and the NESC team for this I am grateful.
I also take this time to thank MP Ludmila de Weever for your positive energy of wanting to see progress made for our beloved St. Maarten, Thank you for your continued support. Much thanks and appreciation to RCG Vice Presidents Mr. Joshua Caroll and Mr. Russell Benford, our legal advisor Ms. Peggy Ann Brandon and Port St. Maarten.
Today, we can proudly say that the people of St. Maarten have embarked on a new horizon.
Happy Career Cruising Day St. Maarten!