Harbour Group invests own money to start pier repairs

POSTED: 11/14/11 3:54 AM

GREAT BAY – Chief Executive Officer at the St. Maarten Harbor Group of Companies Mark Mingo has announced that the company will invest its own money in making repairs to Pier 1, while the company’s legal team and an engineering team sort out who really should be paying for the repairs. The initial announcement that the pier was damaged was made by the Shareholder Representative Theodore Heyliger earlier this year. At that time he urged the company to prepare a full scale plan to structurally improve Pier 1, but they’ve so far stuck to making temporary repairs.

“Pier 1 will be repaired and strengthened in phases because we have funds available for investment. We have taken all steps and we continue to have the legal team look at the guarantees. An engineering team is also scheduled to visit the island and do an assessment. So yes the contractor may have to back, but as of right now we have decided that we can’t leave it up to anyone else,” Mingo said.

The announcement about the repairs was made at the same time the Harbour Group CEO announced that the island is still projected to have 1.46 million cruise passengers in 2011 and that there are positive signs for the 2011/2012 cruise season. The start of that good season is today’s inaugural call of the Celebrity Silhouette.

Growth in cruise is not Mingo’s only priority though. He’s also been working on making the island more of a cargo and transshipment hub and that’s already yielding some fruit. The two years preceding 2011 had been marked by fall offs in arrivals as construction and consumption slowed, but things are growing again. For example by the end of October 2010 the port had taken in 18, 600 containers destined for St. Maarten, but this year the figure is two percent higher – 18, 950. The numbers for transshipment have also grown by 20 percent going from 5, 493 to 6, 625.

“The developments in the surrounding islands will majorly impact what we are able to do, but with what is happening in the wider cargo industry – developments at the Panama Canal – there is a lot of opportunity. It’s not going to be easy. We need to have the right support on the ground, even though we already have the advantage that we are not a customs managed port. We can expect lots of competition from Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica, but we can also benefit if we act as a sub-feeder,” Mingo said.

The Harbour Group CEO has also commended Justice Minister Roland Duncan for his work to increase security by adding more police and announced that they also plan to expand their security efforts, including at the Captain Hodge Wharf.

“The focus though must be on long term solutions and let me be clear I will remain critical when it comes to protecting cruise passengers. Right now as it stands every time there is an incident it ends up on cruise critic, a website viewed by captains, crew and cruisers. St. Maarten is the number six most popular destination in the world, but these incidents of theft and other things are harmful to our economy especially when they can be uploaded with the click of a button,” Mingo said.

The lower part of Philipsburg, where a second tender jetty sits, will also see increased security and activity as the port moves to use that facility more in the coming period. It was constructed with the intention of spreading the economic activity, but there was concern about the alleys and what could happen if they were not watched properly. Parties discussed options during a walk around at the jetty last week and will now move to implement their strategy.

Mingo also said that the Harbour Group and the St. Maarten Tourism Bureau will re-launch a joint cruise conversion program soon that brings together the right elements. The government owned company and the department were charged with creating the strategy during a meeting between stakeholders in the public and private sector earlier in the year.

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