Business

New submarine company invests US$4 million in tourist attraction in Ocho Rios

BY KARENA BENNETT Business Reporter bennettk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, August 24, 2014    

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THE Jamaica Submarine Company (JSC) has invested US$4.2 million ($475M) in the island's first submarine, which is docked in Ocho Rios.

The company hopes to change the tourism landscape with its 40-foot, battery-operated underwater vessel. It is expected to make its first departure in October.

"Going underwater is like going to a whole new world," managing director of

the Jamaica Submarine Company, Douglas Oxborrow, told the Jamaica Observer. "You get to go down and see the World War II shipwreck, look at the bottom of a 100-foot cliff, see the aquatic life and the wonderful things that you're not used to seeing."

Oxborrow is optimistic that both locals and international tourists will be drawn to the submarine because of its untapped recreational space as well as its creation of diversity in the eco-tourism market.

What's more, the submarine is capable of operating on its own for up to three days without breaking to surface from its battery and remote-controlled operations.

Engineers specifically designed the vessel to operate without a combustion engine, burning no petroleum products to protect the fragile undersea environment.

"It's good for the environment and it's very quiet. It's also a great adventure for the entire family," he told Sunday Finance.

The two-hour tour includes a ferry ride which will provide a view of the Ocho Rios Bay and a one-hour underwater excursion to depths of approximately 100 feet.

"The ferry vessel leaves Ocho Rios and drops you off at this huge ship located over the dive site," said Oxborrow. "You board the ship and the submarine comes up in the middle of the ship, people get on the submarine and it disappears in the waters."

The submarine can accommodate up to 24 persons and departs from the Ocho Rios Cruise Ship terminal to a dive site near Sans Souci, a mile from the terminal.

The tour rate currently stands at US$129 for international guests and US$85 for locals, not inclusive of government consumption tax (GCT).

As a result, the company stands to generate up to US$7.8 million ($890 million) in revenue from its planned seven tours per day, seven days a week.

JSC has already employed 16 of the 30 local individuals needed to run operations and will employ customer service representatives, gift shop employees, mechanical engineers, submarine pilots, narrators and sailors by the end of the year.

Jamaica was chosen as the location for the submarine because of its clear waters and established tourism industry, among others, according to Oxborrow.

"The country pretty much netted everything that was on our list, the tourist patterns are good even in what they call the off seasons here," he said.

Stopover tourist arrivals to Jamaica increased by 1.4 per cent over year-earlier levels to 1.07 million visitors during the first half of 2014. Cruise passenger arrivals, which totalled over 740,000 from January to June 2014, were up by 7.7 per cent over the comparative period in 2013.

Oxborrow reckons that the slow and steady increase of the tourism sector over the last six years is a good indicator of future growth.

"If this one is successful, you will be seeing a lot more coming out in the future," he said.

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