Bascome hints at cruise ship plan
And the Government backbencher also refused to deny rumours that Disney Cruises is interested in developing a terminal in the East End — further fuelling speculation that the town will become the regular port of call for a major cruise operator.
Mr Bascome said that, before a ship could be secured for the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Town Cut channel would have to be “modified” to allow larger vessels access to the East End.
And he also said it was essential for Marginal Wharf to be upgraded in order to free up Penno's Wharf, the preferred location for a new cruise ship terminal.
Last night Government declined to comment on Mr Bascome's remarks. A Ministry of Tourism spokesman said: “Several initiatives involving cruise ships and the Island's shipping channels are under consideration. However, to comment further at this time will be premature.
“As always, the public will be apprised of any developments when there is something substantive to report.”
The town has not had a regular cruise ship visitor since 2011, and cannot accommodate the new breed of ‘mega-ships'.
Speaking in the Sherri Simmons radio programme yesterday, Mr Bascome said that a regular cruise visitor was vital for the town's struggling retailers.
“As it stands now there is something taking place and hopefully in the next two to three months something concrete will be brought forward,” Mr Bascome said.
“Hopefully there will be some negotiations going on in the very near future.
“We need to do modifications and its something that has to happen. You're going to have to do some modifications to the Town Cut channel. I don't like that W word — widen — but I'm going to say to you the next opportunity you have take a drive to the Town Cut Channel, look across and its beginning to crumble itself so something needs to be done.”
When asked by one caller how the development will be funded, Mr Bascome suggested that a public/private partnership could provide the solution. But when asked to comment on rumours that Disney Cruises was interested in building a terminal on the Island, he replied: “I can't say which principal it is at this particular time, and as I will possibly be at the fore and things begin to move, at this stage I'm not in a position to say Disney or any of the other principals.”
Mr Bascome has previously spoken publicly about the need to develop Marginal Wharf as a major commercial port that could accommodate gravel, car and container ships. Currently a gravel ship calls in at Penno's Wharf in St George's four times a year, an arrangement he argued would deter investors from developing it into a cruise hub.
“You can't do any enhancement to Penno's until you do something with the gravel ship and as it stands now the only port for gravel to come into Bermuda is on Penno's,” he said.
“So hypothetically if you were an investor, would you put any money into that pier knowing that every three months the gravel ship going come, dump gravel on the dock? This is why we need to determine to do something with marginal wharf. The opportunity is there.”
Holland America Line's Veendam was the last cruise ship to make regular stops at the east end. However, because the ship was too large to safely pass through the cut, it was instead forced to anchor at Murray's Anchorage, with tourists being ferried to and from the town. It last visited Bermuda in 2011.