Global Ports Holding begins cruise port management at St. Lucia

GPH Chairman/CEO Mehmet Kutman thanked Prime Minister Philip Pierre, Deputy Prime Minister Ernest Hilaire, Minister Stephenson King and the entire government team for their ‘commitment and cooperation in bringing this moment to fruition.’

He also thanked stakeholders who provided feedback on the port development plans.

New economic arrangement

‘What we have is a new economic arrangement,’ the prime minister said. ‘We will get the best of both worlds — we let you develop the infrastructure in exchange for a “rental” of the cruise port for 30 years, but you will pay us. You will employ people and you will improve the quality of life of the people of St. Lucia. That is what is most important to me.’

Pierre added that negotiations were tough but said the result will ‘benefit the people of St. Lucia, and we are very happy. GPH has my full support. We need you to begin to do the work as soon as possible. The people of Soufriere, Bananes, the Vendors Arcade — we are expecting you to deliver.’

Getting visitors to spend

Hilaire summarized one of the main reasons why GPH was selected: ‘There’s been a lot of criticism over the years about cruise tourism. Hundreds of thousands of visitors coming to our shores. And people ask, what do we get in return?’ There’s a perception that cruisers go to the beaches but don’t spend money.

‘The truth is, there is so much that you can get in return,’ Hilaire continued. ‘ … GPH knows how to get visitors to spend more money in destinations, so (working with) GPH is a natural fit for us. … We need to take St. Lucia to a higher level … and GPH will come in now to assist in creating a higher level of experience (for our visitors).’

Aligned for a seamless transfer of services

Lancelot Arnold, director of GPH Eastern Caribbean and GM of St. Lucia Cruise Port, expressed pride in officially assuming the management of cruise operations at Port Castries. ‘We have spent months preparing extensively for this moment and are ready to move full speed ahead,’ he said. ‘We are fully aligned with all key partners to ensure that we can begin operations with a seamless transfer of service.’

Arnold said project designs will be refined in collaboration with stakeholders before they’re submitted for government approval, and construction will begin when regulatory permits are in hand. Earlier, officials estimated two years to complete upgrades once construction begins.

Meanwhile, St. Lucia Cruise Port will establish its offices and operate the port in preparation for the start of cruise season in October.

Infrastructure improvements to stay competitive

‘Enhancements to the berth at Pointe Seraphine in Castries will assist in reaching our passenger traffic targets by accommodating the world’s largest cruise ships,’ Arnold said. With lines building bigger vessels, ‘It’s imperative that we modernize our port infrastructure to welcome these new ships and maintain our competitiveness as a premier cruising destination.’

St. Lucia Cruise Port also plans to introduce strategies to enhance passenger and local traffic flow, including new tender jetties and ferry to transport larger groups of people by sea. Arnold expects th project to create more opportunities for St. Lucian entrepreneurs.