SMMTA: “Postpone transfer of concession to SLAC”

POSTED: 03/1/16 2:16 PM

St. Maarten News – The board of the St. Maarten Marine Trades Association (SMMTA) requested that the Council of Ministers postpone or cancel the transfer of any additional concession rights to the Simpson Bay Lagoon Authority (SLAC) including the waters of Simpson Bay and the Simpson Bay Lagoon until a complete investigation into the Harbour Group of Companies and SLAC is conducted. The request was part of a presentation given by the SMMTA board to the Council of Ministers on February 4.

The SMMTA stated that “it’s been over five years since the Harbour Group of Companies gained control of SLAC as a 100% owned subsidiary of the Harbour and during that time they have yet to do anything to truly help promote the marine industry, protect the environment, or improve the services offered in Simpson Bay.”

The SMMTA has objected to the Harbour’s management of SLAC for many years primarily because the Harbour Group of Companies is the parent company of SLAC but it also competes with the very marine businesses it is meant to regulate through SLAC.

“The fact that the harbor has the ability to regulate the industry while competing directly with it has created a very serious and direct conflict of interest. In addition, SLAC charges fees to every vessel transiting the Simpson Bay Bridge and to all vessels moored in Simpson Bay or in the lagoon yet they provide almost no services. There are no public dinghy docks, garbage collection areas, pump out services, or facilities for vessels to take on fresh water – all of these services are currently provided and maintained by the private sector,” the association stated in a press release.

The SMMTA is not opposed to SLAC charging fees. “But the SMMTA has suggested on multiple occasions that the fee structure should be reviewed and a more customer friendly structure should be considered. For instance SLAC could offer monthly, seasonal, and annual cruising permits rather than charging customers each time they transit the bridge.”

The SMMTA board emphasized that their request to the Council of Ministers to reconsider the still pending transfer of the concession for the Simpson Bay Lagoon and the entire Simpson Bay is essential and warranted especially considering the past and current irregularities with the Harbour Group of Companies’ management team.

The SMMTA ended their presentation by stating that “The harbor is a government-owned company that was established to facilitate and promote business activity on St. Maarten through the development and operation of the A.C. Wathey Cruise and Cargo facility. The current management team has unilaterally expanded its objectives to include competing with the private sector on many levels. This should not be permitted or tolerated by our government or our citizens when the harbor competes against the private sector and simultaneously regulates it through their control of SLAC. It’s time that the harbor’s mandate is clearly defined and that the management and oversight of all of their subsidiaries and other dealings are made transparent.”

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