While he spoke of a moderately successful most recent high season for the local marine sector (see related story), industry veteran Robbie Ferron also qualified this with “in light of the hurricane setbacks.” According to him, the mega-yacht part bounced back well, but the potential presence of smaller boats remains reduced.
However, in his view the latter has little to do with the passage of monster storm Irma on September 6, 2017, and a lot with mooring fees that are not competitive compared to others in the region. This is a long-standing complaint from within the field that ought to be looked at especially now, as efforts to restore the tourism economy and its various segments continue.
The importance of the marine sector in that regard should not be underestimated when it comes to earnings and attracting high-end visitors, including private jet owners. Related investment continues, with a six-berth superyacht facility reportedly expected to come on line in the next few months.
While the need for Simpson Bay Lagoon Authority (SLAC) to produce enough income to cover its expenses, including paying off loans for expanding the drawbridge channel to allow in bigger vessels, is understandable, the agency was placed back under the Harbour Group of Companies. Considering how much money is involved in the cruise and cargo business of Port St. Maarten, one would think there might be room for a modest yet significant downward adjustment in the applicable tariffs.
If this is done at least temporarily it could well give the island a welcome boost as a yachting destination. Perhaps any resulting loss in revenues might be more than compensated by greater numbers over just a few years or even sooner.
Sometimes you must give to get.