Dutch trade mission tours on island

POSTED: 07/19/13 12:07 PM

Dutch Trade Mission

Members of the Dutch trade mission that accompanied Prime Minister Rutte on his visit to St. Maarten. The trade mission toured the island to get a better understanding of its economy and infrastructure. Photo Today / Leo Brown

St. Maarten – Accompanying the Dutch prime minister on his tour of the islands was a trade mission of key private sector stakeholders from the Netherlands. They travelled along with Prime Minister Rutte to get a firsthand look at the island and yesterday toured some critical infrastructural and geographic areas vital to St. Maarten’s economy. They represent diverse business backgrounds. The idea was to give them a better understanding of the island’s economy and infrastructure in the hopes of attracting potential Dutch investment here.

The group included: Regional Director, Pieter Lubberhuizen, of Strukton, an infrastructure company; the chairman of the Royal Association MKB, Hans Biesheuvel, an association of entrepreneurs in the Netherlands; Fulco Vrooland, director of sales and marketing, of IHC Merwerde, a maritime construction and consulting firm; Jan Willem Kelder, chairman of TNO, a consulting firm that helps businesses become more competitive; Managing Director Arko van Brakel of De Baak, a leadership training institute; and the Dutch Caribbean general manager of logistics and tourism for KLM, Max Smits.

The group toured the landfill where Minister Lake apprised them of the island’s current waste situation and its plans for reducing the fill with the building of a garbage incineration plant. The tour then briskly moved on toward Gebe in Cay Bay where Chief Operations Officer Romelio Maduro gave the delegation an overview of the island’s power plant and its energy consumption patterns.

He also outlined the challenges a small island like St. Maarten faces in its energy needs. He explained to the delegation Gebe’s future plans and how the company is looking into alternative energy forms, including liquid natural gas, wind, and solar power.

The group then walked from Gebe for a short spell up toward the Seven Seas water processing plant for a brief tour of the facility with its managing director, the former Lt. Governor Frankie Richards. He explained to the delegation that the company was in the process of expanding its water supply capabilities by building two new plants, one in Cupecoy and another in Pointe Blanche, anticipating St. Maarten’s ever growing need for clean water.

From there it was on toward the SOL fuel storage facilities to give the group an understanding of the fuel supply infrastructure on the island, the costs, and the amount of fuel that the company supplies to the various sectors of the local economy. SOL manager, David Antrobus, highlighted to the group that the single largest consumer of diesel fuel on the island was the marine industry, in particular the yachts that come in during the winter months.

The day was capped off with a boat tour of the lagoon aboard the M/V Explorer. The CEO of the Harbor Group of Companies and chairman of the SLAC, Mark Mingo, gave the group an overview of the marine sector and the infrastructure projects. He also pointed out the hub-like nature of the island because of its proximity to luxury destinations such as St. Barths and Anguilla. The boat passed through the causeway bridge where Mingo outlined how it was financed and the purpose it will serve in easing traffic. He also pointed out that the current bridge is nearing the end of its life cycle and will have to be replaced so the causeway will act as the link to the western half of the island once the old bridge is rebuilt.

Tadzio Bervoets of the Nature Foundation also joined the boat tour, providing an ecological perspective to the group. He noted that the foundation and SLAC have been collaborating on numerous projects designed to improve the health of the lagoon. For example, when the causeway was being constructed the foundation transplanted all the mangroves in the area of construction to a safer place so they wouldn’t be destroyed. Another big project on the agenda is the removal of wrecks and other dilapidated debris in the lagoon to improve safety for boaters.

The delegation then reunited with the Dutch prime minister as well as St. Maarten’s prime minister and other officials for a dinner at Divi Little Bay hotel.



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