Government authorities are set on upgrading two of the island’s major seaports through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed with Global Port Holdings (GPH), a project estimated at $47 million.
According to official sources, GPH will undertake a transformational redevelopment project to enhance two of Saint Lucia’s most iconic waterfronts; the Castries Harbour in the north and the Soufriere waterfront on the island’s west coast.
Upon completion of the project, Port Castries will be able to accommodate the world’s largest cruise ships, arcade vendors will gain access to new and improved facilities and Castries fishers will reap the benefits of a new fishing village and ferry facility in Bananes Bay.
Alternately, the ‘reimagined’ Soufriere waterfront will feature enhanced docking facilities and new retail spaces for local vendors.
“Assuming we sign the concession in January 2023, I will finish everything by 2024 …and we are going to get it done,” said Mehmet Kutman, chairman GPH/ PLC.
“The intent of any investment such as this is not only to increase the spend, but to increase those numbers and ideally if we can get Saint Lucia to a million passengers within the next two to three years it will bode very positively for the Saint Lucia public,” declared consultant Sean Matthews.
He added, “It also shows and reiterates the spend concept that we really want people to spend more on the island, and therefore there is the direct infusion of wealth into the economy.
General Manager for the Bahamas GPH/PLC cruise port, Mike Mauru Jr. outlined the project concept for the two ports. He stated that the venture will help elevate cruise passenger arrivals to the destination, increase passenger expenditure and reestablish Saint Lucia as the ‘premier cruise destination’ of the sub-region.
“And with this opportunity to partner with local folks from Saint Lucia …we want to elevate that experience, elevate the product in partnership with locals to give these visitors who have cash in their pockets an opportunity to spend more, because the money is there,” he said.
Mauru Jr. noted that with the “thousands of people coming to Saint Lucia” by cruise each year “there is real money sitting there, waiting to be tapped into.”
In his delivery, Prime Minister Phillip Pierre said he is pleased that government has been able to establish that partnership, while “understanding that everybody has to benefit”.
The project is viewed as an undertaking that could likely pave the way for the construction of improved berthing facilities to accommodate ‘Oasis class’ cruise liners, upgraded vending and duty free shopping zones. The venture will also include ; new fishing village and ferry facility in Bananes Bay , a new dock in Soufriere , and a 1-mile long boardwalk along the Castries Waterfront from La Place Carenage to Point Seraphin.
Tourism Minister Dr. Ernest Hilaire visualized the walking path from La Place Carenage to Point Seraphin lined up with multiple entrepreneurs selling different products and attractions “will give more locals a chance to participate in the tourism industry, to earn a livelihood and to expose the different sides of Saint Lucia.”
It is anticipated that GPH’s redevelopment proposal will attract greater participation in the local tourism sector and would create new business opportunities for stakeholders in the island’s hospitality industry.
Meanwhile, officials at the Saint Lucia Air and Sea Ports Authority (SLASPA) anticipate a transformation of the island’s cruise product and more so, towards the development of the port infrastructure.
According to SLASPA, over the past few months, the island’s major port facility has been in consultation with various agencies and entities involved in developing “the framework that will assist in realizing the expected deliverables of this undertaking”.
SLASPA said that “Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, global cruisers require experiences that differ from destination to destination. We understand that this proposed investment by GPH, supported by the government and SLASPA, will enable Saint Lucia to modernize its cruise tourism product.”
This initiative is aligned with the varied strategies of SLASPA and efforts to improve Saint Lucia’s maritime industry. These plans aim to enhance maritime business, creating opportunities for local SMEs, the youth, and private sector entities, participating in the maritime industry.
SLASPA added that “The port council and management team are encouraged by this MOU and remain eager to realize the envisaged outcome of mutual benefits. We stand ready to continue our collaboration as we move forward with this partnership”.