By Charles Jong,
May 17, 2013
The St. Christopher Air and Sea Ports Authority (SCASPA) and Jay Cashman, Inc of Massachusetts on Friday, signed a memorandum of understanding which SCASPA plans will develop into an EC$83.7 million construction of a second cruise pier at Port Zante which would be able to accommodate two Oasis class cruise ships.
Jonathan Bass is the CEO of SCASPA. He said that the timing of this new development couldn’t be better. “The signing of this MOU is indeed a timely response to the challenges that SCASPA is facing with respect to berthing facilities. The unprecedented growth in the cruise tourism sub-sector that St. Kitts has experienced over the past six years has placed tremendous pressure on our berthing infrastructure particularly on those days when more than three large vessels request berthing.”
CEO Bass stated that the relationship being established with Jay Cashman, Inc is one that could benefit the island tremendously. Highlights of the planned Private Public Partnership (PPP) include a thirty-year concession for Jay Cashman, Inc, which will invest all of the cash necessary for the construction of the pier with SCASPA not being required to make any cash input. SCASPA CEO Jonathan Bass said that during the 30-year period of concession held by Jay Cashman, Inc, “SCASPA will continue to manage and operate the cruise facility.”
David Vingiano, Vice President of Jay Cashman, Inc said that Jay Cashman is extremely excited in starting this relationship with St. Kitts. “We look at a lot of different projects and a lot of different islands and I think what has really impressed me about St. Kitts is number one: it’s growth that’s happened over the last five or six years, which is not an accident by the way. It’s due to the hard work of both the public sector. Many initiatives that make cruise lines really want to come to this island and send people here and make money on this island and contribute to the economy of St. Kitts.”
Vingiano talked about his first impressions when he met the St. Kitts SCASPA officials at Sea Trade. “When I had the opportunity to meet Jonathan (Bass) and Errol (Douglas) at Sea Trade I was extremely impressed by their knowledge of the industry. I continued to be impressed by Minister Skerritt’s knowledge of the industry and all that he has been able to accomplish over the last five or six years since Port Zante has really grown into what it is today.”
He gave some insight about the proposed location of the new cruise pier and some of the desired features which would still need to be ironed out over the course of the next few months during the engineering phase. “The specific location we finalize when engineering is complete but largely it’s going to be just to the West of the current pier at a 45-degree angle. As we go through the following months we’re going to be undertaking a lot of engineering for the new pier as well as consulting with all of the major cruise lines on the ships’ requirements to ensure that they can berth safely at the pier.”
Jay Cashman is the Chairman of the Board of Jay Cashman, Inc. He said that he looks as this endeavor as a huge commitment. “The contractors who are also investing in the project will have a greater eye towards quality; he’s not only going to be building it (the pier) and turning it over to an owner but he’s building it knowing that he has to maintain it and be there for thirty years. The success of St. Kitts will also be my success. So we have a partnership where everybody needs to work together in order to create a product that’s going to drive the economy here in Tourism for St. Kitts.”
Chairman Cashman also spoke about the driver of his confidence to invest in St. Kitts. “We make investments based on the economics and the track record. And St. Kitts has had enormous track record of success in this industry. It is a very desirable port and we think there’s a solid growth (potential). Just look around and compare St. Kitts with so many other Caribbean countries and you see a stark difference. I think that St. Kitts has got a great future (ahead).”
Tourism Minister Richard Skerritt said that this project is a massive project in terms of importance to the cruise industry directly to the ships but it goes beyond that. “It recognizes that tourism is an integrated industry and that we have to make sure that every stakeholder group has an opportunity to benefit.” Minister Skerritt said that existing facilities at Port Zante will benefit from the proposed partnership with Jay Cashman, Inc. “One of which is to completely redo the Amina Craft Market. We have to give all retailers the best possible opportunity and all service providers, the best possible opportunity to serve the needs of their customers.”
Skerritt said that the whole transportation system will also be looked at especially to better accommodate the presold tours and VIP customers. “We expanded the taxi cadre from about 130 taxi operators six years ago to over 400 taxi operators now. We have still over 200 persons on a waiting list. Every day we get people wanting to be taxi operators and we’ve had to freeze the process over the last year. This project and the prospects for the next season and beyond makes it possible to now for us to unfreeze that process and I would say categorically that sometime by the end of third quarter in this year, you will see that process being unfrozen.”
The proposed second pier at Port Zante is expected to be able to accommodate two Oasis Class vessels at the same time; one on either side. The Oasis Class sized vessels are the world’s largest passenger ships. The first two ships in the class, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas were delivered in 2009 and 2010 by STX Europe (formerly Aker Yards) in Turku, Finland. Allure of the Seas docked at Port Zante in December of 2011. Construction of the new pier is expected to begin in either September or October of 2013 and be completed by November 2014, just in time for the 2014-2015 cruise ship season.