Dredging of Port Successful: Promise made

Last Friday evening, another major achievement was celebrated by the Prime Minister Gaston Browne-led administration. True to form, the Honourable Asot Michael

Minister of Tourism, Economic Development & EnergyGovernment of Antigua and Barbuda delivered the feature remarks on the completion of the sweeping andthe dredging of St. Johns Harbor.

In attendance were several key persons including: His Excellency Sir Dr. Rodney Williams, Governor General of Antigua and Barbuda; Hon Steadroy Benjamin, Attorney General and Acting Prime Minster of Antigua and Barbuda; Ambassador H.E. Mr. Brian Stuart Young Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China; Mr. Hu Qui Quan, Secretary to Ambassador H.E. Mr. RenGongping, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Antigua and Barbuda; several Members of the Cabinet and Members of Parliament. Also there were: Senator the Honourable Mary-Claire Hurst,Chairperson of the Antigua Port Authority;Darwin Telemaque, the Port Manager; Chairman of SJDC, Mr. Rohan Hector; Chairman of the Antigua Pier Group, Mr. Craig Whyte;hoteliers, taxi drivers, tour operators and several business owners.

Many persons were actively and directly involved in the very successful project that called for ingenuity, hard-work and determination.The will to complete the project under budget and within the stated time was a goal achieved. It was project management at its best, and the many dimensions that were addressed in Minister Michael’s address, eloquently captured an often repeated refrain of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party, which declares, “promise made, promise kept. Below is Minister Michael’s full address to an attentive audience that clearly appreciated the volume of work achieved in short time.

A very warm welcome to all of you.

Today’s event marks a truly historical reversal in the fortunes of Antigua & Barbuda. Today, we celebrate the completion of the sweeping and dredging of our St. John’s Harbour. his of course is only the beginning of a grander plan to upgrade and improve on the legacy, dating back to 1968. I extend my sincere gratitude to all of you for joining us on this memorable and joyous occasion for Antigua and Barbuda. The completion of this first phase will lead to achievement of the master plan; the new St. John’s Harbour will catapult this country’s tourism future forward, making it a favored port-of-call for cruise lines. We intend to make Antigua and Barbuda an economic powerhouse in the Caribbean, and nothing less.

That said, despite the competition from our neighbours and the turmoil that the industry has suffered in recent years, the Antigua & Barbuda Labor Party (ABLP) Administration, lead by Prime Minister, the Honourable Gaston Browne, is to be applauded for its relentless efforts in re-building the Cruise Industry in our fair country, achieving the growth which is experienced today.

In fact, this season is forecast to be a bumper cruise season with over 700,000 cruise passengers visiting our shores, the positive effects of which have already been felt by all our local stakeholders.As the premier destination, we were the first country to have four dedicated cruise berths exclusively for Cruise ships in the entire Eastern Caribbean.

At the time when the Nevis Street Pier was completed, Antigua and Barbuda enjoyed a tripling of our cruise arrival numbers. And now, after a 10-year slip, the new administration has demonstrated the priority it places on the cruise industry by its tangible efforts to address the long outstanding issues which stymied growth.We have returned the harbour to its original state. Truth be told, in many areas we have surpassed the original water depths so that we can now safely and adequately provide berths for the largest cruise vessels serving the region.

It is the intention of this Government to continue the work that has been started by shortly commencing work on the piers and the landside facilities, to put the Cruise Industry firmly back on the Front Burner and to bring Cruise Tourism back to the pinnacle where it once was and more under this Labour Party Administration. These goals have propelled us to this point, where we will soon reclaim our place as the favored Caribbean cruise port and cruise destination—and it all begins right here, right now, on this very day.

I’d like to take the time to highlight a few of the many achievements which marked this special journey to commence the renewal of St. John’s. First and foremost, I am exceedingly happy to report that not only did we set a time of completion and meet that deadline with flying colors, but we also achieved our goal well under our estimated cost. That is reason enough to wake up with a giant smile on our faces.

For this our country offers profound thanks to Ambassador H.E. Mr. RenGongping and the Government of the People’s Republic of China who have always stood in solidarity with the Government and people of Antigua and Barbuda, particularly as it relates to facilitating major infrastructural projects. Without your country’s support Your Excellency all this would not have been possible.

We trust that the manner in which we delivered this project will motivate our Chinese partners to work even closer with us in ensuring that the funds promised may soon become available to allow the complete transformation of lower St. John’s and both our Cruise and Cargo Port facilities.Ladies and Gentlemen, the commitment by the Chinese government to finance the St John’s waterfront Development project to the tune of US$268 million, was the catalyst that encouraged the contractor China Civil Engineering and Construction Company (CCECC) to advance the funds to effect this most urgent and necessary dredging works.

To the Directors and local managers of CCECC we expressed our heartfelt appreciation. Your decision to advance the initial funds of US$3,997,000 to effect the works has already started yielding fruits with our cruise lines partners who have indicated that they shall be increasing their services to our lovely country. The Cruise lines are indeed excited that something that they have requested for a number of years is finally done and for your trust and support we say THANK YOU!

To our main contractor AnsaMcall, the people of Antigua and Barbuda are grateful for the level of professionalism displayed throughout this dredging project. Your bid was the best price and your deliverable reflects work of the highest quality. Your commitment in facilitating the transfer of knowledge to our local port Authority staff is noteworthy and we salute you for delivering this project ahead of schedule and within the budget allotted.

To sub-contractors BOSKALIS, you remained true to your international acclaim by delivering top quality dredging works. Your efforts during this project have been outstanding. We are hopeful that the professionalism displayed can motivate all involved. You have enhanced the local talent and by so doing have left greater local capacity, which should benefit us in the future. You conducted your business regardless of the many obstacles during the busiest time of the year. For your commitment to the environment and ensuring that all local regulations were adhered to, we are most grateful.To all our Tourism, Cruise and Port stakeholders and everyone else who worked tirelessly to ensure that this project was delivered in such an efficient manner, I say a heartfelt thank you. You have all done Antigua and Barbuda proud!

Secondly, the sweeping and dredging serve as a demonstration of our commitment to the industry and an understanding of their business. When we shared a progress report with our cruise line partners at the recent Miami Cruise Shipping Convention, we were met with the enthusiastic response: ‘we are now demonstrating that we understand their business”. For more than one decade, they have not seen an Antigua and Barbuda Government official. When Molwyn Joseph served as Minister of Tourism during the leadership of Prime Minister Lester Bird, it was the last visit of an Antigua and Barbuda official.

The completion of this project has strengthened our relationships with our Partners, not least a major partner such as Carnival Cruise Lines. For example Carnival has been pleasantly delighted with our performance and in our ability to listen to our guests’ feedback and respond in kind. As a result, our destination rating in a region of 30 ports has jumped from #27 last October 2014 to #17 today. Leadership matters. We still have a lot to do but the results are encouraging and show that, for our critical cruise industry, the Government’s policies have already began to yield results. We are definitely moving in the right direction. This bodes well for not just Carnival but for all of our current and future cruise line partners.

Ladies and gentlemen, please permit me to take a few moments to highlight some details from our plans for the renewal of St. Johns and the total transformation of our Port facilities. The funds are earmarked as follows:

To prepare parking areas and the establishment of a Transportation Hub.
The Construction of a seawall to secure the water front area in front of the Old Bryson’s building adjacent to the new Ferry Dock.

Repairs to roads, restructuring of gutters and sidewalks throughout lower St. John’s, including installation of waste run-off collection areas.
Provide a clear thoroughfare connecting RedcliffeQuay and Heritage Quay along Commissioners Alley, along with general repairs and maintenance of the entire area.
A modern Marina, with Hotel, Condominiums Casinos, High-end designer Shops, Green space, A museum and a host of other modern amenities.
A new modern cargo terminal, a new warehouse, Customs and Port headquarters, and a logistics park,

Ladies and Gentlemen the entire new waterfront development will stretch from the Deepwater Harbour to the current Cruise facilities in Downtown St John’s. This is only the beginning of our plans for upgrading the Harbour and Port Facilities. In fact, the negotiations and discussions to facilitate these plans are already well under way both on the financing side and also the design and development side. The neglect that marked the previous administration is a mistake of the past.

At Cruise Shipping Miami, we met with several industry and world-renowned architects and designers who have already made compelling presentations to us. As we seek to get the best possible design suited to our needs, we will ensure that whoever is finally selected must have an impressive track record of delivering major projects, done from conceptual design to construction and project management. Our potential partner for this phase of the development must also be respected in the industry and have strong relationships with the major cruise lines, which will result in strengthened ties with these giants of the Cruise Industry.

I would like to leave you with a promise. I promise that this administration, led by the Honourable Gaston Browne, will intensify its efforts in reclaiming our former prestige as a top Caribbean port but, also, to be much much more. This season, our numbers are the best we’ve had in several years. The increased arrivals are a testimony to our efforts and our commitment to achieving these goals for the betterment of Antigua & Barbuda. Realize that the completion of this dredging project is only the beginning and that the future looks very bright indeed.

I would like to use this opportunity to thank everyone who worked tirelessly to ensure that this project was delivered in such an efficient manner. You have all done Antigua and Barbuda proud.Ladies and Gentlemen you have my personal assurance and commitment from the entire Gaston Browne Administration that we will make certain that the resources are made available so that the, long-term improvements for the Port and City of St. John’s remain a top priority.

The continued collaboration and support of all local cruise tourism stakeholders—in our quest to improve the cruise industry—will allow our country to guarantee a first-class experience for our valued cruise line partners and for the thousands of prospective cruise guests that visit our shores each year.What we are celebrating today, in the completion of the critical dredging works, is a promise made by the new Gaston Browne administration and a promise kept!Thank you all for attending.