Benjamin Ortega, Colin Murphy of GPH, Arline Reviera of GPH and Louis Bute.

PHILIPSBURG--Global Ports Holding (GPH) made a presentation to representatives of the St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce and Industry (COCI) earlier this week.

  GPH requested a meeting with COCI to provide background information about the company and its line of business. GPH was set up in 2004 and has become an international port operator with a diversified portfolio of cruise and commercial ports, it was stated in a press release on Thursday. GPH offers clients an integrated platform of cruise facilities serving cruise ships, ferries and yachts.

  GPH operates 18 ports in 10 countries including Portugal, Italy, Spain, Malta, Montenegro, Croatia, Turkey and Singapore. There are also some commercial port operations – bulk, container and general cargo handling – in Bar (Montenegro) and Turkey.

  GPH has interests in the Caribbean, with primary focus on the cruise sector. The company has already signed a 15-year management agreement with the Cuban company Aries to operate La Habana Cruise Port.

  It has also signed a 30-year exclusive concession with the Government of Antigua and Barbuda to operate all cruise terminal facilities in St. John’s and just recently concluded a 25-year port operation and lease agreement with the Government of the Bahamas for Prince George Wharf and related areas.

  COCI President Benjamin Ortega and Treasurer Louis Bute said at the end of the meeting that COCI looks forward to more information and stakeholder input where needed, and that stakeholders be consulted about the process if and when any negotiations or proposals are forthcoming on the possible management of Port St. Maarten.

  Port St. Maarten is a considerable contributor to St. Maarten’s gross domestic product (GDP).

  “GPH explained their intent and interest in St. Maarten, especially in Port St. Maarten. During the meeting detailed information of the market expectations in especially the cruise industry was presented that included the construction of bigger vessels with increased carrying capacity of passengers.

  “GPH also explained various stats and strategies used within the cruise industry that can be considered antiquated and not progressive towards economic development of various countries,” Ortega said. 

  “We were able to ask a number of questions related to financial projections, the timetable in relation to return on investment and at the end of the concession period, the return of the port operations to port management.

  “Discussions also centred on the drop in cruise numbers for the 2019-2020 cruise season which are related to the redeployment of cruise ships to cruise line private islands and the reopening of destinations in the Northeastern Caribbean which were offline due to the damage they sustained from Hurricane Irma two years ago.  One such destination is Tortola where some cruise lines have commitments to that destination.”

  Also discussed were the possible expansion of the cargo facilities at Port St. Maarten, utilities demand, and infrastructure upgrades needed which are a prerequisite for facilitating growth within the trans-shipment sector.

  The major concern for the COCI representatives who attended the meeting is congestion on the island’s road network and at popular tourists’ sites and attractions.

  “As a destination, St. Maarten has already been through the experience of when there are six-plus ships in port, there is a lot of congestion. The major concern for the chamber was regarding the benefits of having improved distribution models of passengers throughout the island and not only to the general areas developed over the years.

  “As much as possible every business should be able to benefit from the spinoff of the improved distribution of passengers and guests throughout the island, yet keeping into consideration the physical improvements the island needs to be able to facilitate and ensure a stable carrying capacity and not an influx that will ultimately stifle our overall economy and visitor experience. More diversity is needed in tours to also facilitate the movement of guests.

  “Homeporting accommodations and collaboration with our international airport PJIA and carriers to the island are also required. These are pre-requisites in order for our visitors to have a great time and continue to leave the island with smiles on their faces,” Ortega noted.

  He thanked GPH for its in-depth presentation.