Mingo defends Port of St. Maarten’s stance on break-water construction

POSTED: 12/2/14 12:55 AM

GREAT BAY—“Port St. Maarten will not stop any plans from any local or foreign developer.  We believe in sustainable development, but one must respect the concessions that have been given to Port St. Maarten on 11 July, 2007 where all waters in Great Bay were designated a concession area except for private harbour facilities that already existed at that time.  We are all stakeholders and we must work together in a sustainable manner,” Port boss Mark Mingo states in a press release on Sunday. Mingo’s statements comes as the harbor and Dock Maarten N.V began a legal battle with the former seeking to stop the latter from constructing a marina with a pier to accommodate ultra and Giga yachts.

Mingo said Port St. Maarten must protect its interests on behalf of the country, the people, the shareholder and agreements with stakeholders and financial institutions. “Port St. Maarten generates one third of the national economy of the country and this translates into millions in foreign exchange earnings to taxi drivers, tour companies, water taxis, jewelry stores, casino’s, restaurants and bars and many more other types of businesses on the island, and employing thousands of St. Maarten people.  I have a responsibility towards my shareholder which is the Government of St. Maarten, to ensure that the national interests of the economy are protected because it would have consequences if the concession given by Government is allowed to be chipped away by third parties.

“I respect the plans by Dock Maarten, but at the same time, you have to respect the concession that Port St. Maarten received from the Government of St. Maarten.  Dock Maarten has to work within the confines of the concession and still be able to carry out its plans but on a different scale where it does not infringe upon the national economic interests of the people and Government of St. Maarten.  Port St. Maarten asked to review the plans of Dock Maarten on several occasions but this never happened. Port St. Maarten is a group of companies that have to stay ahead of the game in the interests of the people of the country and the shareholder.  Dock Maarten’s dredging of the bay could have serious consequences with respect to waves in this particular area of Great Bay area, which is in the concession area of Port St. Maarten.  You have to take into consideration the existing water taxi movements back and forth, yachts maneuvering in Great Bay and around cruise ships within the maritime channels, the security and safety aspects come into play, which are all within the concession area of the port,” Mingo said on Sunday.

“Dock Maarten seemingly wants to cater to Giga yachts which is considered a small cruise ship, and this means you are competing against the concession holder which is Port St. Maarten. The ports master plan entails the extension of the cruise pier and home porting program of small cruise ships which all serve the general interests of the population of St. Maarten.  Our innovativeness and forward outlook has made Port St. Maarten one of the major ports in the Caribbean and one of the top five cruise destinations.  This is a result of the hard work and dedication of the staff, the supervisory board and the shareholder,” Mark Mingo notes.

Cruise tourism contributions to St. Maarten as a destination is very prominent.  In 2013 the destination received over 1.7 million cruise passengers. According to the Business Research & Economic Advisors (BREA) 2012 study, Economic Contribution of Cruise Tourism to the Destination Economies, the average expenditure per passenger in St. Maarten was $185.40, which benefitted numerous industries through purchases of goods that included food and beverage at restaurants and bars, clothing, shore excursions, ground transportation, local crafts and souvenirs, watches and jewelry, perfumes and cosmetics, electronics, entertainment/night clubs/casinos, retail purchases of liquor, and telephone and internet. The same study showed that the average expenditure per crew in St. Maarten was $135.50 on similar products and services. Plus it revealed the direct and indirect employment generated by the cruise industry, totaling 8,123 jobs and $159.8 million in employee wages.

“Port St. Maarten has taken note of statements made in the court injunction hearing of November 28 and will defend itself and investment partners.  I was very much surprised by certain statements made, however as mentioned before, as Chief Executive Officer, I at all times must defend the rights of Port St. Maarten and its partners,” CEO Mark Mingo said.

Mingo says the court injunction was started based on the following.  The Concession of Port St. Maarten was given in July 2007, and it gives the Harbour exclusive rights, and this is part and parcel of all the agreements that Port St. Maarten has with its partners.  This gives guarantees to the financiers and government and stakeholders. The concession is not “free.” There is also a concession fee which needs to be paid for those rights that have been given to Port St. Maarten.

“Certain statements were made about a wolf and sheep, I will not dignify or comment further on that since that is for the person who made the statement.  Port St. Maarten has always championed a clean environment for the country, and this goes back from detailed studies of the construction of the port facilities over the last 14 years, to the introduction of clean technology, to the acquisition of the Lagoon Authority (SLAC), to the improvement in the lagoon environment, green harbour alternative energy projects, replanting of mangroves and partnering with Nature Foundation to further enhance our environment in and near the water. Port St. Maarten’s track record speaks for itself.  What also surprises Port St. Maarten is how the Master Plan is being ridiculed.  It is being developed in conjunction with CH2MHill a well renowned engineering company with much experience in this field which entails defining solutions to the flood water runoff of the Ponds and the parking and traffic challenges in and around the Philipsburg area.  As noted before, Port St. Maarten and its subsidiaries are solutions oriented and driven.

“I have been listening to many parties and stakeholders, and we must do something to the one road traffic connection to the Port and Point Blanche. The dynamics have changed between the aforementioned areas where over 20 % of cruise passengers are walking to Philipsburg.  The Master Plan has always included moving the current walkway to the waterside for both safety and esthetical reasons for the visiting guests. When we talk about Port St. Maarten, we live up to our part of the concession and have been doing so since July 2007, making payments of Naf.5.2 million along with other taxes to the treasury of the country.  Port St. Maarten pays its taxes and contributes back to the national economic development of the country and at the same time being a socially responsible corporate citizen of the St. Maarten landscape. Port St. Maarten has paid over Naf.35 million in government concession fees alone since 2007.

“I have taken note that the owners of Dock Maarten are from St. Maarten, but so are many families who don’t have any income or are struggling in the Down Street area.  You cannot have ad-hoc development, but must carefully make sure it all compliments each other, and that’s called sustainable development, and I will defend this approach over and over again,” Mingo added.

“Port St. Maarten also looks at economic development activity spread to the less developed areas.  Everything is interconnected and you have to also develop the other areas, and we have and continue to do so.  We have invested US$2 million in the Down Street cruise ancillary project which is slated to open in January 2015 as a cultural heritage development.  Despite all the continuous opinions and statements made by certain private sector partners over the months, Port St. Maarten has a clear strategy and will lead as written in its strategic plan and we will continue to execute according to the national economic interests of the country, its people and the shareholder representative, the government.  I will await the court’s decision on December 5th and we will take it from that point forward,” CEO Mark Mingo concluded on Sunday.

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