by Janelle Norville
Prime Minister Hon. Allen Chastanet, having returned from official travels to Miami, Florida, on May 8, provided an update to the GIS on several projects which he indicated will be of major benefit to Saint Lucia and the cruise industry.
Highlighting other cruise ports in the region, the Prime Minister said given the increase in the size of vessels, cruise lines now require more than one homeport. As such Saint Lucia would make for a valuable addition. Another infrastructural project on the cards for Saint Lucia is that of the Hewanorra International Airport. Hon. Chastanet explained how that project complimented the southern home port.
“The decision was to move the terminal perpendicular to the race strip. What that would have allowed us to do is the following; one is to build the new airport without interfering with the day to day operations of the existing terminal and that once the new airport is finished, the goal is to convert the old airport specifically into a charter hall but one designed very much in mind of home porting. So what would happen is, passengers would arrive off of the flight, into the existing HIA terminal, which would be reconfigured and passengers would not be clearing customs and immigration in that facility but in fact what they would be doing is being processed to get into their cabin, so they would get their room keys they would put all their credit information etc. and literally when they leave that terminal to the ship which is only about a mile and a half away, they would actually go straight to their cabin and their bags would have been sent in advance.”
Prime Minister Hon. Allen Chastanet reported that the cruise industry is excited about this venture, as it offers additional benefits including the close proximity of the port to a dedicated terminal, aiding significantly with logistics. This would save time, money and create a better customer service environment. The Prime Minister however admitted that the venture has not been without its challenges.
“One of the difficulties we’ve had, was overcoming the current financial status of the cruise industry and secondly that the cruise companies wanted to be satisfied that there were sufficient tours available from Vieux Fort to service the remaining passengers because as I indicated, not all of the passengers getting on the ship will be coming on from Saint Lucia. So there will be other passengers who arrive on that same ship and would be going on an excursion for the day and so we’ve been working very closely with them to give them the assurance; one, that Soufriere is actually closer to Vieux Fort than Castries is, so it means that there’s extra time that persons can stay in Soufriere. The second one is the opportunity for new tours between Vieux Fort and Soufriere as well as between Vieux Fort and Dennery.”
The Prime Minister explained that the meetings also encompassed talks with technical personnel on the final details of the agreement.
“I am excited about the prospect, and I will be making a more formal pronouncement hopefully in the beginning of June and I’m hoping that the MOU between the Cruise Industry and Saint Lucia would have reached a point where we can sign it. I certainly want to see it through to its fruition before elections.”
The home cruise port, strategically located in Vieux Fort in close proximity to the Hewanorra International Airport, will give Saint Lucia a competitive edge.