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Winair commenced service to Haiti with new aircraft

SIMPSON BAY – Winair commenced service to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, January 17, 2018 utilizing a state of the art Airbus 320.

“This aircraft is operated by Sunrise Airways, all seats are sold and marketed solely by Winair. This aircraft offers 138 economy seats and 12 business class seats.

“Winair will operate these services on Wednesdays and Saturdays, departure time in Haiti is 08:15AM for St. Maarten and aircraft departs St. Maarten at 12:00noon for Haiti.

“These services connect with the entire Winair network making connections available from 12 destinations. For reservations please call Winair, or our website, or your favorite travel agent,” the airlines said in a press statement.


Work Group formed within EOC to assess National Tsunami Preparations

GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – A small Work Group (WG) within the Emergency Support Functions (ESF) that falls under the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), has been formed to assess and ensure National Tsunami Preparedness within the Government apparatus, and to develop a national tsunami preparedness plan.

A tsunami is a very large ocean wave caused by an underwater earthquake or volcanic eruption.

On Tuesday a meeting chaired by the EOC Disaster Coordinator and Fire Chief Clive Richardson, and supported by ESF-10 Coordinator and Secretary General of the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunications (Ministry TEATT) Miguel de Weever, brought together various government agencies that are part of the WG.

The WG is a joint initiative of the Office of Disaster Management and Ministry TEATT.

The agencies are: Sint Maarten Police Department, Fire Department/Office of Disaster Management, Meteorological Department of St. Maarten, St. Maarten Tourist Bureau, Department of Communication (DCOMM), and the Ministry of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment, and Infrastructure Management (Ministry VROMI).

The WG and subgroups will meet on a regular basis and will be working on a number of areas such as warning systems, designated safe areas, public awareness campaign and post-Tsunami event.

One of the key areas discussed is the identification of an alarm center(s) that would then activate the EOC. This is critical, as evident in the real-life event of Tuesday, January 9 in the middle of the night when an earthquake in the Western Caribbean Sea resulted in a tsunami warning being issued for parts of the Caribbean.

The WG will be looking at the various forms of warning systems to ensure that the country has a comprehensive and effective system such as a siren alarm system and/or using electronic messaging via Smart Phones to alert the population and what action is required.  The system should also be able to issue messages in various languages.

The designation of Safe Areas where persons in the various low-lying districts need to go for safety are to be identified. The traffic flow via identified evacuation routes and the logistics need to be worked on in order to maximize the survival rate of the population.

A Public Awareness Campaign will be necessary to sensitize the population about the alarm system that would be put in place; what actions a person is required to take; the evacuation route etc.  The Public Awareness Campaign would also cater to specific publics such as public, schools (i.e. Children), Tourists, Vulnerable Persons/groups, etc.

Besides being able to respond to a tsunami event, the WG will also look at a Post-Tsunami Sint Maarten and what will be required in the aftermath.   

Members of the WG were of the opinion that Hurricane Irma has thought us many valuable lessons and one needs to ensure that we have an improved plan to execute and protect life, community and property on Sint Maarten during a natural disaster.

In the past 500 years there have been ten confirmed earthquake-generated tsunamis in the Caribbean Basin with four causing fatalities. An estimated 350 people in the Caribbean were killed by these events.

During the relatively short 500-year period of written Caribbean history, tsunamis have inflicted a small amount of losses compared to other hazards such as windstorms, earthquakes and volcanic activity. The impact of a large tsunami can be as devastating as earthquakes or an erupting volcano.

The Eastern Caribbean islands lie in a setting where major structural changes are occurring in the Earth’s crust. All known sources capable of causing tsunamis (that is, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides) occur within striking distance of the Eastern Caribbean, and there are also distant sources across the Atlantic.

Since the islands lie in an area of relatively high earthquake activity for the Caribbean, the most likely tsunamis to affect the Eastern Caribbean are those which can be triggered by shallow earthquakes (<50km depth), in the region, greater than magnitude 6.5, according to the Seismic Unit of the University of the West Indies.


The 38th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta Raises Funds for Local Foundations

SIMPSON BAY - In the wake of Hurricane Irma, organizers of the annual St. Maarten Heineken Regatta have announced to use the Caribbean’s key maritime and cultural event to raise awareness and funds needed to rebuild the island of St. Maarten.

The 38th edition will aim to raise funds for dedicated marine, humanitarian and environmental efforts through the K1 Britannia Foundation, the St. Maarten Nature Foundation, the St. Maarten Sea Rescue Foundation and the St. Maarten Yacht Club Regatta Foundation.

Over the years, the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta has proven to be an integral event for the island of St Maarten. Starting of as a relatively small event in 1980 with 12 participating boats, choosing its dates in such a way to extend the Marine and Hospitality high season into March, to the world-class event it is today.

Its economic impact evident through booking numbers at hotels and marinas, full restaurants, busy supermarkets and most often generating return visitors. The local population, regional and international sailors all join the “Serious Fun” that the event is known for, making this one of the most popular regattas in the Caribbean.

With currently over 50 boats officially entered, Regatta Organizers expect a good turnout for this unique edition of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. Michelle van der Werff, Regatta Director says: “It’s a very challenging year for everybody. We can’t just forget what happened in September, and the island is not back on its feet yet.

“But the support so far from the sailing community has been tremendous and we need them to help recover. Therefore, it was a no-brainer to go ahead with the Regatta this year and we decided to team up with these great Foundations to be able to directly give back to the community and help the people of St. Maarten in rebuilding their lives.”

One of the Foundations the Regatta will be working with is the K1 Britannia Foundation, whom are actively involved in many hurricane relief programs on St Maarten. Funds raised will help them continue their efforts. The K1 Britannia Foundation has selected four projects to which they will dedicate the funds raised during the Regatta.

The first is their Second Chance Program, which secures job opportunities and funding for education for at-risk youth and foster children on the island. “We work with vulnerable youth on the island, many of whom have so much potential but little opportunity to continue their studies after high school. With your help, they can continue their studies to become the chefs, pilots, and sailors they aspire to be,” said project manager Iris Hakkens.

K1 Britannia has also committed aid in the reconstruction of several community-oriented organizations on the island post-Irma. “Another important project we felt was necessary to include to secure funding for is the Disaster Relief Plan,” Hakkens continued. “We’ve just been through something catastrophic, and we should take the opportunity to learn from it and be better prepared for the next major hurricane. Hurricane season is just a few months away, so we’re preparing early to be fully equipped for when the season begins.”

Lastly, the Foundation will be launching their Partners for Change program during the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta; the program was developed to recruit long-term sponsors to fund the Foundation’s regular activities.

Another well-established Foundation that will be part of the 38th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta is the St. Maarten Nature Foundation. One of their key priorities after the storm was cleaning the Simpson Bay Lagoon from sunken vessels and determining the state of the water. They have organized many clean-up activities and are generating awareness of the importance of the Lagoon to St Maarten’s environment. During the Regatta they will also focus on a clean, plastic-free ocean and update sailors about the marine mammal migration.

The St. Maarten Sea Rescue Foundation (SSRF) is the third Foundation supported by the Regatta. The SSRF is an organization that’s fully run by volunteers offering assistance to sailors and mariners in need of help. They’ve been an important Partner of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta since the inception, securing safety on the water. Their Rescue- and Communication Office got completely wiped out during Hurricane Irma and their boats suffered severe damage. Funds raised during the Regatta would assist them in the continuation of their services.

The final Foundation is the St. Maarten Yacht Club Regatta Foundation. Severe damage was done to its premises. Nevertheless, they’re resilient to rebuild and get their Youth Sailing Program back on track. Michele Korteweg, General Manager says: “Our Youth Sailing Program is of great importance to the Sint Maarten Yacht Club and the community. Therefore, every effort has been made to continue the program with the limited resources available, but we do need additional funds to rebuild our docks and replace our fleet to get it back to the old standards.

We aim to have our docks rebuilt before the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, but we still have a long way to go. We are keen to show the progress we have made so far to all of whom have been incredibly supportive. This year’s Regatta being a fundraising event is a wonderful development as the entire island needs the support and we are ready to welcome all the sailors and visitors back with open arms.”

All Foundations will play a significant role in the execution of the Event and will be present at the Regatta Village to provide more information about their projects.




Prime Minister Marlin Romeo expresses sympathy to the Government and People of the Netherlands

POND ISLAND - Newly sworn-in Prime Minister Leona Marlin Romeo has expressed her sympathy to the Government and people of the Netherlands on behalf of Sint Maarten on the passing of three persons during the severe winter storm on Thursday January 18th in the Netherlands.

“As a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, our unwavering support and solidarity goes out to the Netherlands, its residents and Sint Maarteners living in the Netherlands,” a press statement from the Cabinet of the Prime Minister said on Thursday.

“Prime Minister Marlin Romeo sympathizes with the families that have lost their loved ones and wishes them much strength during this period. News reports from the Netherlands have also indicated that there are dozens of persons that have also been injured by falling trees and flying debris,” the press statement concludes.


GED Students end their first week back at USM in all high spirits

POND ISLAND - The GED program which also started on Monday, January 15th, 2018 at the USM ended its week on a positive note. The spring semester started with 68 students happy and eager to start, as well as for some continue their GED classes from where they left off before Irma hit the island.

GED program Coordinator Ms. Micaela Hart mention “it is a great feeling seeing so many persons excited and ready to get their GED. Even though there were a few hiccups after Hurricane Irma, we were able to pull through and start the GED program for the New Year.  I wish all our students the best on their journey to higher education, and also thank all the instructors, who really make it possible”.

The USM which currently stands as the only GED official testing center on the island promises to continue catering to these students who are paving their paths to a bright future ahead.

The USM does not only offer classes to the students but also stands as a testing center whereby persons who are prepared to take the exam (without classes) can register to do so.

The team has already been welcoming new applications and registrations for the next semester which will start in the summer and Fall semester of this year. Registration is open for all programs at the USM.

Persons interested in the Summer semester for the degree programs can apply now online or visit the campus at the Soualiga Boulevard to collect, pay and submit their information.

Persons who are interested in joining the program in the summer semester (which commences on May 7th, 2018 would need to apply and submit their documents before Friday, April 6th, 2018. GED applications for the Fall semester are accepted until Friday, July 22nd, 2018.


Nature Foundation Intercepts Poachers in Marine Park, Seized Fish Donated to White and Yellow Cross Foundation

COLE BAY - Staff of the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation intercepted the vessel Oyster, with registration number SX1438, that was found poaching illegally in the Man of War Shoal National Marine Park at the location 17 ̊-59.511 N and 63 ̊-03.327 W close to the ‘Mike’s Maze’ dive site.

The Spanish-speaking Fishermen were approached but did not comply with the instructions of Nature Foundation staff. The vessel left the area but was followed by the Marine Park patrol vessel and the fishermen were met by police officers and the coastguard.

“As the legally mandated Management Authority for the Man of War Shoal Marine Park we regularly patrol the area and have authority to respond to illegal activities in the Marine Park. It is listed within the rules of the Marine Park that no fishing is allowed.

“We have a close working relationship with fishermen when it comes to the Man of War Shoal Marine Park and would like this to continue. However if we notice illegal activities within the Marine Park those will be addressed,” read a Nature Foundation statement.

The boundaries of the Marine Park are between 18̊ ̊N and 17 ̊-57.0 N and 63 ̊-01.03 W and 63 ̊-04.05 W, in an area better known as “the Proselyte Reef Complex ".  This area includes the island’s most ecologically and economical important marine habitat, including extensive coral reef areas and seagrass beds.

“The Man of War Shoal Marine Park, officially established on the 30th of December 2010, is a home and migratory stop over or breeding site for 3 IUCN Red List Species, 10 CITES Appendix I species and 89 Appendix II species. It is an area with a relatively healthy population of marine mammals including migratory whales and dolphins, numerous species of shark, sea turtles and numerous fish species.

“Studies conducted by the St. Maarten Nature Foundation have shown that biodiversity in this area, particularly coral reef density, is high and the economic goods and services which the ecosystem provides are in excess of fifty million dollars annually.” It has been shown that no-fishing areas have resulted in an increase in fish stock. Therefore it is also in the interest of fishermen to adhere to the no catch rules of the Marine Park,” continued the Foundation.

The case is being dealt with by law enforcement authorities. The confiscated fish was donated to the White and Yellow Cross Foundation Sister Basilia home and Home for the Elderly. The Nature Foundation would like to thank Dive Adventures for notifying the Nature Foundation.

PHOTO CUTLINE: Illegally caught fish in the Marine Park.

poaching 2 inside


Cooperation and Joint Programs discussed by Justice Ministers

SINT MAARTEN/CURACAO - Immediately after having been sworn in as Minister of Justice on Monday January 15th, 2018 the Honorable Minister Cornelius de Weever traveled to Curacao to participate in the biannual meeting of the four Ministers of Justice of the countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

During the formal Ministers’ meeting which took place on Tuesday January 16th agreements were made regarding cooperation and joint programs towards: further strengthening the Justice-chain, the prevention of High Impact Crimes, improving exchange of data, the implementation of ICT systems and combating Human Smuggling and Trafficking.

In addition, the Honorable Minister of Justice of Sint Maarten and his esteemed colleagues of Curacao Minister Girigorie, Aruba Minister Bikker and the Netherlands Minister Grapperhaus agreed to explore the possibilities of modernizing and improving the Prison System.

Particular emphasis was furthermore placed on the importance of the implementation and continuous carrying out of crime prevention programs specifically aimed at the youth as well as improving legislative capacity on the islands

In his closing remarks Minister de Weever expressed his gratitude and extreme appreciation for all the assistance and support the kingdom partners have given Sint Maarten during the aftermath of hurricane Irma.

“I would like to thank the St. Maarten delegation for their positive contributions towards the meetings,” said Minister Cornelius De Weever.


Minister Wuite says priority on early and midterm recovery of education, culture, youth sports

POND ISLAND – During the first Council of Ministers press briefing on Wednesday morning, Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports (Ministry ECYS) Jorien Wuite outlines her plan of action regarding the portfolio’s that fall under her responsibility.

“Prime Minister, fellow ministers of the Council, members of the media, Good Morning.

Let me begin by expressing my appreciation to the Prime Minister and my fellow council ministers for the opportunity to work with such a vibrant and enthused set of individuals whose only motive is to see the people of St. Maarten through the recovery phase that we are currently in.  

“Hurricane Irma has undoubtedly changed not only the physical landscape of our island; it has changed the economic, financial and psycho-social landscape as well.  As Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, besides lending my support and focus to the agreements of the governing accord of the Romeo-Marlin cabinet, in these coming weeks and months my priorities will also be on the early and midterm recovery of our nation and the areas that pertain to my ministry in particular. 

“As I received Cultural Xpressions of Inspiration for today I would like to share it with you as it says that “Put your heart, mind and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success (fromSwami Sivananda)”. This inspiration reminds us of the contributions of everyone made in the after math of Irma.

“This Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport worked on acts Big and small and has already undertaken many initiatives and completed enormous tasks with the entire sectors such as schoolboards, sport organizations, representatives and organizations for the arts and youth organizations including day care centers.

“I would also like to express my sincere thank you and gratitude to former Minister Silveria Jacobs for her pro-active initiatives in the emergency phase after the Irma. We recognize her leadership and support to re-open the schools in October to ensure that our community was able to stabilize and develop some first sense of normalcy in our daily family lives.

“Together with the Ministry I am happy to announce the Ministries contribution to our need to complete our own St. Maarten National Recovery Plan. The preparations to a Ministry Resilience Plan or MRP titled “Education comes first” is a comprehensive approach to working toward the objectives of establishing a foundation for a sustainable recovery and to also improve disaster responsiveness before, during and after disasters in the education, culture, youth and sport sector. 

“As your new Minister I believe in the principles of an open government, maybe even radical transparency to regain trust amongst our people, our constituents. Of course the press and the entire community expects us to be able to hit the ground running and to make a difference. In line of this belief in participation and partnerships, I can say that my cabinet and I immediately participated in the second series of consultation sessions with key stakeholders of my Ministry on Monday. During this session we agreed that it is imperative to accelerate on vital issues related to reconstruction of schools, sport and cultural facilities.

“Projects need to be developed immediately to ensure that the opportunity of funding to the World Bank can be considered and I urge the stakeholders to partner with my Ministry and focus on being efficient and effective in the planning and executing of these vital projects with a focus on social economic recovery. While we may consider this ministry to be soft and part of social affairs, I dare to emphasize the critical nature of education, culture and sport and younger generations in a healthy and strong economic and productive recovery.

“Projects are expected to be prepared as soon as possible as the matters and preparation of a National recovery plan will have to conclude in actionable items with projected financial consequences. Critical stakeholders will receive an invitation from me this week to discuss our mutual visions, critical recovery issues and goals and the larger group of the stakeholder session will meet once again in February to be informed about urgent priorities, final projects and financial consequences.

“While various matters have been prioritized by the Ministry through the MRP plan, we also recognize our day to day responsibilities such as the deadlines and preparations of study financing for new Study financing requests for the academic year 2018-2019.  As minister I will prioritize and focus on critical areas such as the psycho-social wellbeing of our students, teachers and ECYS staff; curriculum development; safety and preparedness of all ECYS institutions to ensure that our children and youth can learn and develop in an environment that is conducive to their overall development; reconstruction and possible re-zoning of certain critical facilities; capacity building; policy and legislation.

“In particular my focus will be on:

  1. Emphasis put on our most vulnerable groups, such as single mothers, children with disabilities or disorders and low income families.
  2. An education (reconstruction / re-zoning) plan for various schools and also special attention to schools such as the Charlotte Brookson Academy, St Maarten academy and SVOBE with emphasis on becoming a leading country where it comes to schools that meet criteria of 21st century learning and safe school environments.
  3. Resource allocation for all affected facilities and therefor careful review of required budgets, the advances through our insurance policies (and possible adjustments of these policies for MECYS), multi annual capital investments and the recovery funding possibilities through the World Bank.
  4. Important legislation related to our recovery such as the legislation for Higher Education and required funding for institutes of higher learning such as for USM.
  5. Support for the re-training of employees that have been affected by the loss of their job after the hurricane.
  6. Support and initiatives for sport and cultural (community) programs as we all I am sure understand and should recognize that “Art heals” and that sport activities for our youth can “build understanding, peace and a culture without stress and violence”
  7. Curriculum development and after-school programs our ministry will seek to develop a national curriculum, which will include other then academic subjects such as agriculture, sport, art and life skills to develop and strengthen well-rounded creative and critical thinkers.

“The priorities above may at first glance appear to be a monumental task. Time is short and these tasks are ambitious. On this journey, I have an amazing cabinet staff that has come alongside me to help shoulder the responsibility of making the priorities mention above come to pass.  Suenah Laville-Martis, joins the cabinet as policy advisor after an extensive period in the ECYS Inspectorate and Personnel departments. Beverly Mae Nisbeth, the cabinet’s policy officer is a former teacher and past director of the Nature Foundation and has a heart for culture and education. 

“Henderikus Ekema, has a comprehensive background and education in facility management and his expertise will be focused primarily on ensuring our schools, cultural and sporting facilities get the vital attention they need in this critical reconstruction phase.  Giselle York is specialist in the communication field tasked with the role of public relations officer ensuring that both internal and external communication in the Ministry is at its peak. 

“And Michnella Eugenio, whom I have had the pleasure of working with for the last eighteen months in the ministry’s staff bureau as my secretary.  I could not imagine making this transition without her and Michnella will be the cabinet’s executive secretary ensuring that our cabinet’s administrative needs are executed in an expert and client friendly manner.

“Of course, I look forward to working with the dedicated staff of the MECYS ministry I have had the pleasure to serve as Secretary General for the past three years.  We have toiled together, celebrated victories and have learned and grown from our challenges.  And now as your minister I pledge to continue to champion the initiatives we have worked on so tirelessly. 

“To the media, I look forward to building a strong relationship between Ministry and yourselves.  Your responsibility within our society is an important one as fair and balanced reporting is in my opinion, the corner-stone of your profession.  A strong and active partnership is a must and I commit to you that the door, through our public relations officer, will alway be open.

“To the people of St. Maarten, I am very humbled at the overwhelming responsibility of being your Minister of Culture, Education, Youth and Sport.  I pledge to work diligently on your behalf and I thank you for support,” Minister Jorien Wuite concluded.


COM visits SXM Airport. Ministers express concern and seek more info

SIMPSON BAY, (DCOMM) – As a follow-up to a unanimous decision of the newly installed incoming Council of Ministers (COM), a delegation consisting of Minister of Finance, Michael Ferrier, Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor, Emil Lee, Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure, Miklos Giterson and Deputy Minister Plenipotentiary Hasani Ellis, were given a tour of the Sint Maarten Airport Terminal Building (ATB) in the afternoon of Monday, January 15, the same day the Council was sworn in.

Prior to his departure to Curaçao for his first ‘Justitieel Overleg (JVO)’, Minister of Jusitce Cornelius de Weever, also visited the airport building.

Management and board of SXM Airport were present and conducted both tours for the delegation, as well as for Minister de Weever.

It was pointed out to the representatives of the airport that the public’s perception of Sint Maarten’s ATB is that after four and a half months post-hurricane Irma, the main portal of Sint Maarten’s economy is still in shambles and that seemingly very little has been done to repair the destruction.

While according to the airport officials present, improvements are being made, amongst which having a baggage handling system that is now about 80% functional, the conditions of the ATB appear to have been allowed to deteriorate daily, according to the visiting ministers.

Practically the entire roof continues to leak unabated even today, resulting in mold throughout the entire facility. The queries and concerns expressed during the tour were responded to, but to a large extent, the responses spawned new questions.

Additional information will be provided during a special Council of Ministers meeting with the board and management of the airport scheduled for Friday, January 19, 2018.

The main agenda topics will be an update on the planned repairs of the ATB, the status of the insurance claim and the short and long-term plans for a bigger and better Sint Maarten airport.

sxm airport pix1


Carnival Cruise Lines returns to the destination with Sunshine & Pride

PORT ST. MAARTEN – Carnival Cruise Lines returned to the destination on Monday with Carnival Sunshine. Carnival Pride will be in on Tuesday, January 16. Carnival is one of the destination’s strategic cruise partners and has been a loyal and committed cruise stakeholder for several decades.

Passengers were greeted early Monday morning, with a warm festive St. Maarten welcome from DOW’s Steel Pan Band, stilt walkers, and Carnival dancers fitted out in costumes.

Carnival Sunshine has a guest capacity of 3002 and a crew complement of 1040.  The vessel has a gross tonnage of 102,853 and is 892 feet long.  Carnival Pride carries 2,100 guests and 930 crew, and has a displacement of 88,500 tons and a length of 965 feet.

Port St. Maarten Management is delighted that Carnival has returned, and this is the first of several post-hurricane port calls by Carnival ships to the island in the coming weeks.

This visit will be followed by Carnival Conquest on January 23 and another five calls for the month of February. 

Carnival Cruise Line was founded in 1972, and is considered — “The World’s Most Popular Cruise Line®” — that carries millions of passengers every year. The lines newest ship, Carnival Vista, debuted in 2016 and Carnival is building two new ships — Carnival Horizon enters service in April 2018 and Carnival Panorama follows in 2019.

Carnival Cruise Line is part of a family of companies owned by Carnival Corporation, which includes sister lines Princess Cruises, Holland America Line and Cunard Line, among others.

Carnival currently has 24 ships operates three- to 16-day voyages, departing from every coast in the U.S., plus from Canada, Puerto Rico, Europe and Barbados.

While Carnival is best known for Caribbean cruises, they sail to other exotic and amazing destinations like Mexico, Alaska, The Bahamas, Cuba, Hawaii and the Mediterranean.

Additionally, Carnival Cruise Line Australia now has two ships, and offers cruises from Sydney to New Zealand, the Pacific Islands and Singapore.

Carnival Sunshine Welcomed

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