Harbour Group CEO pushes “regional” development

POSTED: 01/13/12 11:56 AM

“If they fail, we will too”

St. Maarten – “We must co-develop the region, because if they fail, we will too.” That is the broad message that Chief Executive Officer of the St. Maarten Harbour Group of Companies Mark Mingo delivered on Thursday when he met delegations from Aruba, Curacao, St. Maarten and the Netherlands that are attending the Inter-parliamentary Consultation on the Kingdom. The four delegations were also given a tour of the cruise and cargo facilities in Point Blanche.

Mingo’s view on co-developing stems from the fact that cruise lines tend to schedule ship itineraries based on a region, not a single island, and because the island has an ideal location to move cargo to surrounding islands. One example of that one region concept is the link between St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius. The latter two islands depend on the port here for the transshipment of cargo and talks have been opened to launch a fast ferry service from the port in Point Blanche that goes to Saba and St. Eustatius.

“That will mean that St. Maarten has opened both an air bridge and a sea bridge to the other two islands,” Mingo said.

The harbour group CEO also announced to the delegations that the harbour will be building and opening a new onsite attraction on four acres of land that will stress the country’s historic tie to the Netherlands. The working title is Dutch Village and the amenities include, amongst others, an actual windmill and a place to eat the Dutch snack stroopwafel.

“Our surveys show that our visitors miss that link to our heritage and they want an entertainment spot on the port. So this is our way of giving them that new attraction,” Mingo said.

Dutch MP Ronald van Raak wished him luck with the project, because he personally finds Dutch villages boring.

“My wife is Dutch so I’ll have to call and ask her if it that is really true,” Mingo quipped back in a light moment.

More seriously Mingo asserted, in a reply to another question from van Raak, that the Harbor has ensured it strictly adheres to the ISPS Code on port security and that both the Customs and the Coast Guard have office at the harbour. The Customs Department is also actively involved in searching containers for contraband. Their efforts compliment an investment in the GLS Security System that allows the harbour to find out what’s being shipped into the country. The system cost the harbour $1.4 million but they’ve already repaid that deficit.

During the tour Mingo also stressed the Harbour Group’s plans to become a green port this year. The move, which includes buying windmills to generate electricity and giving all the company’s managers iPads so they can reduce paper usage, will save the company 30 to 35 percent on costs. The six urban mills that will be part of the transformation is projected to yield a 20 to 25 savings on the Harbour Group’s annual $1 million electricity bill.

Next to providing assurances that there was no government influence in the company because of the rules on corporate governance and projecting that not just the harbour, but the island’s marine industry, has continued potential for growth Mingo requested that the MPs seek ways to assist them with accessing European Union funding so they company could continue developing. He also stressed the need for the four countries in the Kingdom to continue cooperating as they each continue their development and he said MPs should try to see what package of benefits can be worked to help stimulate growth in both the cruise and cargo sector. He used St. Thomas and the United States as an example for a new arrangement called Kingdom benefits.

Mingo also told MPs that the Harbour Group, which has 11 companies including a consulting arm, that human resources are the greatest need that his company and the country has.

“For the harbour itself also one of our greatest needs is the support of the police, Customs, economic department and government. All these partners need to continue playing their role,” Mingo said.

The discussions at Great Bay Beach Hotel and subsequent tour of the Dr. A.C Wathey Cruise and Cargo Facilities concluded with a lunch aboard the Allure of the Seas.

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