Wednesday marked the start of a new tenure at the Quays in St John’s as Global Ports Holding (GBH) has officially taken the reins of management of the St John’s cruise port terminal from the Antigua Pier Group.
Today’s ceremony saw the culmination of an 18-month negotiation between the Government of Antigua and Barbuda (GOAB) and GPH.
One of the lead negotiators in the GPH deal, Tourism Minister Charles “Max” Fernandez announced at the handover that, “this government is positioning St John’s Harbour to be the marquee port in the Caribbean.”
The deal got a significant cosign from the CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority (ABTA), Colin James.
“Indeed, today’s ceremony and celebration is just a forerunner and a precursor to something grander and more exceptional to come in the next 18 months when our fifth berth will be ready to accommodate the largest cruise ships in the world,” James said.
Pointing out that the Ministry of Tourism is not pleased with the current per passenger spend and the services provided at the port, the tourism minister disclosed that the government had been subsidising the industry to the tune of $10 million a year,
Considering this position, Fernandez said, “when the opportunity presented itself… we engaged Global Ports Holding. We are confident that the 2021 season will see the country breaking the 1 million passenger barrier and that the spend will incrementally increase by at least 15 percent annually”.
Fernandez also outlined nine key benefits that the government will realize as per the GPH deal: paying off a US $21 million ACB 20-year-old debt; head tax of US $1 per passenger for the first three years and environment tax of US $1.50 per passenger; financing the fifth pier berth of up to US $30 million; a US $2 million investment into Heritage Quay; adding a new commercial area on lower Newgate Street, to include shops and cafes by investing over US $25 million; providing US $5 million to the Prime Minister’s Entrepreneurship Development Fund; the adaptation of the GPH management culture; staff training; and the benefit derived from the global marketing effort of GPH.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne added that the port’s expected yield to the government should be a total of $2.5 million per year, conversely ($1 million from the head tax and $1.5 million from the environmental tax).
Read more in the Daily OBSERVER.