Port Royal pier won't burden public purse

Port Royal pier won't burden public purse

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saudersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, January 17, 2020

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PRESIDENT and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) Professor Gordon Shirley says the country will have to absorb some of the capital costs of the cruise pier in Port Royal over the next four years, but that the development will not become a burden on the public purse.

He assured the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) on Wednesday that there is a long-term business and financing plan for the 30-year investment project.

“We don't see this as becoming a burden on either PAJ or the Government of Jamaica... Under no circumstance, based on our planning, do we expect to have to come to MoF (Ministry of Finance) or to Parliament, cap in hand, saying bail us out of this project — we don't see that based on the numbers we are already seeing,” the CEO asserted.

The cruise ship pier, which is being built at the Old Coal Wharf, includes a terminal area, administrative building and a series of bus and tram loading structures. PAJ will operate the pier, which, it said, in its draft Environmental Impact Assessment, would see a maximum of two vessels weekly.

Professor Shirley said that from a commercial perspective a private enterprise may not have opted to invest in a pier at Port Royal, but “that's what distinguishes a public enterprise organisation that takes input from the policymakers that says, in the interest of growth, even if you had some other area as a more favourable location for the next port, Kingston has to be dealt with because of the challenges that Kingston faces. It is in that context that the Port Royal project was an imperative for us to do, given the directives that we have received from the policymakers to get this done,” he told the committee.

He emphasised, however, that returns on the project are important and that it is projected that by year four or five, the Government will begin to break even in operations and capital.

“We have been frugal in the way that we have gone about doing this. Forty-five million dollars is not a large number for cruise development, we have kept it tight while not compromising in any way the quality of the product that we think we will be able to provide,” he stressed.

Professor Shirley also said that the promenade, which will take tourists from the pier to the town, is now fully functional and landside facilities are at an advanced state of completion.

He said developments in Fort Charles are also advanced and that cultural and tour training has been provided for 40 individuals from the community, who will be integrally involved in the process.

The pier is expected to receive its first cruise vessel — the Marella Discovery II— on January 20.

Professor Shirley said that for most cruise itineraries, the north coast terminals are much more favourable than on the south coast, and that for this reason the initial take-up from the American-based vessels has not been significant.

“The Europeans spend a much longer time on the cruises... We are pleasantly surprised by the interest that is now being shown already, not just by the European tours, but the Americans themselves, because I think they've got a sense that this is no longer a pipe dream, that it is developing,” he said.

There are four cruise calls slated for Port Royal for this year, which should bring approximately 10,000 passengers.

He said bookings for 2021 will be significantly more, as a number of other lines are expected to come on stream.


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