Mega ship wharf for St George’s

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  • (Photo by Akil Simmons)
Transport Minister Walter Roban speaking to the media yesterday about a plan to create a mega cruise ship wharf for St George's.

    (Photo by Akil Simmons) Transport Minister Walter Roban speaking to the media yesterday about a plan to create a mega cruise ship wharf for St George's.

  • Govt is planning to create a mega cruise ship wharf for St George's, it was announced yesterday.

    Govt is planning to create a mega cruise ship wharf for St George's, it was announced yesterday.

A new cruise ship wharf for St George’s was announced by Transport Minister Walter Roban yesterday. The new facility will be designed for the mega cruise ships which dominate today’s cruise industry and will provide the east end with a long-awaited cruise ship infrastructure required for a regular caller, promised Mr Roban.

“Government is in discussions with cruise lines to examine the feasibility of developing a cruise pier in the east end of Bermuda,” said Mr Roban.

He would not name the cruise lines involved in the discussions, or give an undertaking as to when it would be completed. He also said it had not been determined where the exact location of the cruise line would be.

Government is also in active discussions with an interested cruise line to find small sized ships that could call at the town of St George’s and Hamilton, he announced. Those plans would not come to fruition until 2014 at the earliest. “We’d love to have something for St George’s next year,” he said, but explained cruise lines plan their schedules two years in advance.

Answering questions after the press conference where he made the announcement, the Transport Minister said discussions “were at a very preliminary stage.”

Mr Roban did meet with scepticism, with one reporter asking: “Isn’t it fair to say it’s just a dream right now?” to which he responded: “It is not a dream. It is very real. We are having discussions with cruise ship companies. It is very real.” Another reporter asked whether St Georgians would be sceptical as promises such as this one have been made to the town for 20 years. Mr Roban responded: “I can give a solid promise — we will be doing something in the area.”

The One Bermuda Alliance Shadow Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell responded, saying: “St George’s residents have been played with long enough — by a Government that has delivered nothing but empty promises, false starts, lost jobs and rising crime. Today’s 11th announcement by Transport Minister Walter Roban is more of the same.

“Look closely at his words. Mr Roban is promising to “examine the feasibility” of developing a cruise pier with “possible funding alternatives” while failing to reveal the identity of the cruise line he’s talking with “because of the sensitivity of the discussions…” with stakeholder consultation “soon to occur”.

“St George’s residents have heard all this before. In this case it is clearly a desperate, last-minute announcement by the Government to make up for years of neglect.

“On Monday, they can finally have a say if they want more of the same with the current Government or change with the One Bermuda Alliance,” he said, concluding: “St George’s needs a new partner. It’s time for change.”

Mr Roban said the reason the announcement had come within just two days of the election was because it was the earliest opportunity to make it. “There was no way my announcement could have come any earlier,” explaining talks have only now reached a stage where he could say anything. “It is great news for the country, and the Government is fully behind it.”

During the announcement, Mr Roban said: “In 2011, the Ministry conducted a study of Bermuda’s shipping channels to determine what would be required to accommodate larger cruise ships in St George’s and Hamilton. The study’s findings were presented to the public through a series of town hall meetings held in October 2011. After careful consideration it was decided not to conduct significant modifications to the approaches to Hamilton Harbour or widen Town Cut in St George’s. Instead, the possibility exists to develop a cruise pier in the Murray’s Anchorage area, located on the north shore of St George’s Island. No specific location has been chosen for this pier since we are in the early stage of discussions.”

He said the new National Tourism Plan identified St George’s as a major tourism hub. “It is our belief that reinstating a cruise ship presence in the East End will revitalise the local economy and create much-needed jobs. The purpose of these early discussions with the cruises lines is to explore the feasibility of a cruise pier and possible funding alternatives.”

He added: “Because of the sensitivity of the discussions I cannot today reveal the cruise lines we are having discussions with.

“The discussions will examine a number of items and will include:

l possible locations for the cruise pier in the Murray’s Anchorage area;

l whether the ship’s deployment schedules could include both the east end and Royal Naval Dockyard — as you recall we once had ships that alternated between St George’s, Hamilton and Dockyard which allowed for cruise visitors to dock at different ports in Bermuda;

l the importance of a cruise pier in the development of the east end hub identified in the National Tourism Plan, in particular taking advantage of the many underutilised destinations in the east end including St George’s and St David’s;

l and whether there are small cruise ships available to transit Town Cut and enter St George’s without making significant modifications. Although the channel study concluded that there are increasingly fewer cruise ships in service to safely transit Town Cut, we have not given up on finding such a ship.”

He said there will be consultation with the Corporation of St George’s and other stakeholder groups, and noted that the Norwegian Majesty had been a regular caller until 2009, but since then St George’s has had no regular cruise ship. “We hope to find solutions to reinstating a cruise ship presence in the East End.

“In closing, we have a commitment to the people of the east end to provide them with direct economic benefits of our cruise product.”

The Bermuda Environmental and Sustainability Taskforce (BEST) sent out a statement following the announcement, suggesting consideration of alternative docking locations because the Murray’s Anchorage proposal would require large-scale dredging and construction.

“For many of the same reasons discussed in the preceding sections, it would seem that exploring such avenues, at least in the near- to mid-term, would be misguided. Instead, BEST strongly believes that efforts and expenditure to improve our tourism sector would be far better spent on less capital-intensive, smaller-scale, cost-effective initiatives aimed at:

l increasing land-based visitor arrivals to better diffuse the impacts of tourism throughout the Island and to take advantage of their significantly higher expenditure per head,

l improving our transportation network to better service current cruise passengers (as well as land-based visitors and locals) and to diffuse their impacts across the Island,

l developing initiatives to increase per capita cruise ship passenger spending onshore,

l and proactively approaching all cruise lines with ships that do meet current size restrictions, encouraging them to give Bermuda a prominent place on their itineraries, and working with them to ensure that Bermuda remains a profitable destination for both the cruise line and the Island alike.”

After the press conference was concluded, Mr Roban told The Royal Gazette exclusively that the Government is looking at redeveloping the airport and the Causeway as public private partnerships once the major public private partnership hospital project currently underway is completed.

Mr Roban said the airport was 60 years old and it was time to rebuild it. He said: “I believe that it will be a couple of major infrastructure projects that are going to provide jobs for our citizens.”

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Published Dec 15, 2012 at 8:00 am (Updated Dec 14, 2012 at 11:47 pm)

Mega ship wharf for St George’s

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