SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – The St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce & Industry (COCI) President of the Board Benjamin Ortega and Treasurer Louis Bute, received a presentation from representations of Global Ports Holding (GPH) earlier in the week.
GPH requested to meet with the Chamber to provide background information about the company and the line of business that they are in. GPH was set up in 2004 and has quickly become an international port operator with a diversified portfolio of cruise and commercial ports. GPH offers clients an integrated platform of cruise facilities serving cruise ships, ferries and yachts.
GPH operates 18 ports in 10 countries including Portugal, Italy, Spain, Malta, Montenegro, Croatia, Turkey and Singapore. There are also some commercial port operations – bulk, container and general cargo handling – in Bar (Montenegro) and Turkey.
GPH has interest in the Caribbean, with primary focus on the cruise sector. The company has already signed a 15-year management agreement with the Cuban company Aries to operate La Habana Cruise Port. It has also signed a 30-year exclusive concession with the Government of Antigua and Barbuda to operate all cruise terminal facilities in St. John’s and just recently concluded in a 25-year port operation and lease agreement with the Government of the Bahamas for the Prince George Wharf and related areas.
COCI President Ortega and Treasurer Bute at the end of the meeting expressed that the Chamber looks forward to more information and stakeholder input where needed and if and when any negotiations or proposals would be forthcoming on the possible management of Port St. Maarten, that stakeholders be consulted about the process.
Port St. Maarten is a considerable contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country.
“GPH explained their intent and interests in St. Maarten especially in Port St. Maarten. During the meeting detail information of the market expectations in especially the cruise industry was presented that included the construction of bigger vessels with increased carrying capacity of passengers.
“GPH also explained various stats and strategies used within the cruise industry that can be considered antiquated and not progressive towards economic development of various countries.
“We were able to ask a number of questions related to financial projections, the timetable in relation to return on investment, and at the end of the concession period, the return of the port operations to port management.
“Discussions also centered on the drop in cruise number for the 2019-2020 cruise season which are related to the redeployment of cruise ships to cruise line private islands and the reopening of destinations in the North eastern Caribbean which were offline due to the damages they sustained from Hurricane Irma two years ago. One such destination is Tortola where some cruise lines have commitments to that destination.
“We discussed the possible expansion of the cargo facilities at Port St. Maarten as well as utilities demand and infrastructure upgrades needed which is a prerequisite for facilitating growth within the transshipment sector,” President of the Board Benjamin Ortega said on Thursday.
The major concern for the COCI representatives who attended the meeting is congestion on the island road network and at popular tourists’ sites and attractions.
“As a destination, St. Maarten has already been through the experience of when there are six+ ships in port, there is a lot of congestion. The major concern for the chamber was regarding the benefits of having improved distribution models of passengers throughout the island and not only to the general areas developed over the years.
“As much as possible every business should be able to benefit from the spinoff of the improved distribution of passengers and guest throughout the island. Yet keeping into consideration the physical improvements the island needs to be able to facilitate and ensure a stable carrying capacity and not an influx that will ultimately stifle our overall economy and visitor experience.
“More diversity is needed in tours to also facilitate the movement of guest. Homeporting accommodations and collaborations with our international airport PJIA and carriers to the island is also required. These are pre-requisites in order for our visitors to have a great time and continue to leave the island with a smile on their face,” President of the Board Benjamin Ortega said on Thursday.
President Ortega at the end of the meeting thanked GPH for their in-depth presentation.