Regional

Disappointment!

Falmouth residents rue lack of benefits from cruise ship pier; mayor urges patience

BY MARK CUMMINGS Editor-at-Large, Western Bureau cummingsm@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, February 20, 2014    

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FALMOUTH, Trelawny - THREE years after the historic town of Falmouth began welcoming cruise passengers, the Trelawny business community as well as residents, are expressing disappointment at the level of economic activity that is being generated from the development of the $7.5- billion Falmouth Cruise Shipping Pier.

"The town is not visitor- friendly. Essentially it has serious problems in relation to the collection of garbage and drainage. In fact, the town of Falmouth was not developed in a manner that would allow it to benefit significantly from the development of the pier," Delroy Christie, the first vice -president of the Trelawny Chamber of Commerce told the Observer West on

the weekend.

Dennis Seivwright, a former president of the chamber agreed. He stressed that since the development of the facility, there have been widespread disappointment across the parish of Trelawny.

"Since the development of the pier there is great disappointment. I believe that it should be benefiting Falmouth much, much more," Seivwright stressed.

Like Christie, he argued that major infrastructural development which is critical to support the pier is lacking in the north coast town.

"My vision was to see small businesses in the town of Falmouth really raking in some good US dollars, but instead most of the guests that come off the ships go to other places. This would not have happened if proper infrastructure was put in place before the opening of the pier," he argued.

According to Seivwright, when the pier was being conceptualised, there were plans to restore several historic landmarks in the town. But that, he said, is yet to materialise.

"We talked about restoring some of our historic buildings; we talked about the present parish council building being used as a museum; we talked about a transport centre; relocation of the market... all of these are not yet to be realised," Seivwright charged.

He stressed that one of his great disappointments is the absence of a statue of Olympian Usain Bolt — a native of Trelawny — in the town.

"Investors are raring to go to sponsor the erection of that statute because everybody wants to identify with it. And it was not just Usain Bolt's statue we wanted. We wanted to see Veronica Campbell and Michael Frater, as well, boasting Trelawny's pride because of all the parishes in Jamaica, we have the most top-rated athletes."

Leon Jackson, a Trelawny resident, bemoaned that despite the town's rich history, it has not been able to provide enough attractions for the thousands of cruise ship passengers.

"Falmouth has a rich history of association with sugar. At one time there were 80 sugar factories in Trelawny, and at this time we don't have a museum where we can trace the history of the parish's involvement in sugar. This, in my opinion is a disgrace," said an irate Jackson.

"You will have two ships coming into the pier on particular days with 8,000 people and Falmouth does not have enough attractions to host 1,000 of those, so as a result of that most of them go outside of the parish and the people who were looking forward to benefiting from the cruise ship passengers coming, are left to mourn and groan."

But while conceding that Falmouth is yet to maximise the benefits from the multi- billion-dollar pier, Mayor Garth Wilkinson, is urging residents to be patient.

"I know that three years on a lot of people still feel that they have not benefited from the thousands of visitors who have arrived at the pier. And we want to change that," Wilkinson stressed, adding that "Rome was not built in a day and so very soon we will start to see more benefits".

He noted that over the next few years the seaport town will undergo a raft of infrastructural development that will enhance its tourism product.

Among them, he said, is the installation of proper drainage systems, the construction of a municipal market and transport centre, as well as the rehabilitation of a number of roadways that have fallen into disrepair.

Plans are also afoot, he added, to acquire garbage trucks in an effort to address the pile of waste in sections of the town.

Wilkinson noted too, that discussions are under way with the Jamaica Agricultural Society to have craft vendors ply their wares at the Hague Agricultural Show Grounds and to get first sporting events at the Trelawny Multi-purpose Stadium.

"A major fast-food franchise will also set up business in Falmouth pretty soon," added Wilkinson.

He stressed that going forward businesses operating in the town will have to change the way they operate.

"A part of the problem is that people were reluctant to change their focus and take on other business," he stressed.

Christie, in the meantime, is optimistic that the proposed development of the town will become a reality soon.

"The government is now moving in the right direction to develop Falmouth so the town is now poised to benefit in a serious way from the pier," said Christie.

The Falmouth Cruise Pier is a joint effort of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and the Port Authority of Jamaica.

According to Wilkinson, over the last three years Falmouth has welcomed some 1,807,481 cruise passengers, spending roughly US$182.5-million during their visits.

Meanwhile, William Tatham, vice-president for cruise shipping and marine operations at the Port Authority of Jamaica, said his organisation is satisfied with the contribution that the opening of the pier has brought to the country.

"We are very, very pleased with the Falmouth port, it has brought a lot of business to the parish; it has brought a lot of attention to Jamaica," said Tatham, noting that the facility can accommodate the largest cruise vessels in the world.

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