Minister for Infrastructure, Ports, Energy and Labour, Hon. Stephenson King, announced at a sitting of the House of Assembly on April 4, that Saint Lucia will welcome its first mega cruise vessel in December.
Minister king made the announcement following a motion to allow the Minister for Finance to borrow US$15,000,000 from the National Insurance Corporation (NIC) on behalf of the Saint Lucia Air and Sea Ports Authority (SLASPA), to extend the Breasting Dolphin Berth at Pointe Seraphine to facilitate the berthing of mega cruise vessels.
Minister King briefly traced the history of the development and upgrade of Port Castries. He stressed that due to cruise sector growth projections, there is need to place emphasis on the development and enhancement of facilities.
“This Government has made a firm commitment not only to improve Port Castries and consider a location for the establishment of a new commercial port, but also to continue to improve on the cruise ship facilities and by extension, to look to the south of the country to establish a major cruise port in Vieux Fort that will complement a number of the economic initiatives that the government has committed itself to, including the establishment of the DSH project,” he said.
“This is a global initiative on the part of the government to look to the international arena to see how Saint Lucia can maintain its position and be able to offer two world class facilities, one in the north and one in the south, that will attract international business and place Saint Lucia as the number one cruise ship destination in the Caribbean. SLASPA has initiated the project to extend the Pointe Seraphine berth No. 1, which will mean the commencement of that initiative to facilitate the first call of the vessel sometime in December.”
Projections indicate a 20 percent increase in the call of vessels to Port Castries once the berth is completed, and a resulting 19 percent increase in passenger arrivals.
“This means that there is need for a level of consciousness in our business community. It means that our people must understand that there are opportunities being presented and to identify and make good use of the opportunities and venture into a world of possibilities,” stated Minister King.
Minister with responsibility for Tourism, Information and Broadcasting, Hon. Dominic Fedee also lent support to the motion.
“The cruise industry was in tremendous decline,” he said. “The 2016 figures had shown that we declined by some 16 percent, despite the fact that Saint Lucia had a comparative advantage over a number of our Eastern Caribbean jurisdictions. Something drastic had to be done and we took the decision to engage the cruise lines a lot more.”
Minister Fedee added that, judging by the year-to-date figures, Saint Lucia had already seen a 22 percent increase in cruise industry growth.