From left: Port St. Maarten Business Development and Marketing Manager Lela Simmonds, TEATT Minister Stuart Johnson, and FCCA President Michele Paige.

 

MAHO--The process to present a request for proposal (RFP) to operate the port has been initiated, confirmed Port St. Maarten Business Development and Marketing Manager Lela Simmonds on Tuesday afternoon at a press conference held to discuss recent developments in the cruise industry.

  She said the port is currently selecting a person who will lead the project group that will finalise the RFP. According to her, the selection of this person will be done around October 18. She expects a completed RFP to be presented to various stakeholders within six months.

  “We have all been aware that cruise and cargo facilities were impacted by the hurricanes of 2017 and it puts us in a position where we find it very hard to continue and to compete and lead in the cruise and cargo industry, regionally and internationally, while we need major investment.

  “For this reason, the port management … highlighted the very transparent and very open bidding process … for the upgrading of both facilities,” said caretaker Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (TEATT) Minister Stuart Johnson.

  However, when asked to elaborate on what Port St. Maarten is looking for in a concession deal, Simmonds said she could not give details on the RFP now, adding that further details will be communicated to the public when the process is further along.

  Port St. Maarten said in a press release on October 1 that “for the long-term, 20-25 year period” the port will issue an RFP to “realise its long-term strategic goals of attracting a partner(s) which could comprise private port operators or cruise line(s).”

  “Such a partnership would bring additional strategic expertise and capital, leading to mutual benefits for the port and the country overall,” said the port.

  Johnson emphasised that the St. Maarten government has no favourite in the bidding process. “Our only favourite is the people and country of St. Maarten,” he said.

  At the end of the day, St. Maarten should “seize the opportunity for further enhancement of our tourism product [and – Ed.] further enhancement of our cruise and cargo facilities,” according to Johnson.

  Global Ports Holding last week confirmed its interest in making a bid to operate Port St. Maarten. Global Ports Holding Head of Business Development in the Americas Colin Murphy said the company is interested in managing both the cruise and cargo facilities, adding that given Port St. Maarten’s debt profile this is the most sensible option.

  Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) President Michele Paige confirmed on Tuesday that a consortium of cruise lines is also interested in making a bid to operate the port.

  When asked whether government is open to a financing option like the one to reconstruct Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA), whereby the port’s management would remain in the hands of government, Johnson said that all options will be explored throughout the RFP process.