Recent deals reveal new interest in developing Caribbean cruise ports
2019, November 1: Having signed contracts with three Caribbean cruise ports in just 18 months, Global Ports Holding (GPH) has now publicly expressed real interest in St. Maarten, confirming months of speculation in the public media.
GPH signed contracts to operate La Habana, Cuba (for 15 years starting May 2018); St. John’s, Antigua and Barbuda (for 30 years starting February 4, 2019); and Nassau, The Bahamas (for 25 years, starting October 2019).
And even before the ink had dried on the Nassau deal, GPH was already talking to all the relevant people in St. Maarten, including the political directorate and business organisations, about managing the cruise port at Philipsburg.
Those introductory exploratory talks gave GPH a sense of how stakeholders viewed a third-party entity managing the port. As with the other ports, GPH would have emphasised that it was not purchasing the port or any part of it; that it was strictly a management deal in which GPH would assume responsibility for all the commercial aspects of the port’s operations with the Government receiving revenues from the profits.
Up to the time of going to press, GPH had still not received a request for proposal from the port. That notwithstanding, company executive Colin Murphy disclosed that GPH was willing to pay off the port’s outstanding debts and put through a repair and expansion programme of cruise and cargo facilities. The package could cost GPH over US$300 million, but GPH thinks St. Maarten is worth it and has moved accordingly. Indeed, the company seems encouraged and driven by market prospects at this time.
The management contract signed in May last year with the port of Havana has GPH advising on cruise management best practices. Located in the Sierra Maestra complex at San Francisco pier, the cruise terminal can now accommodate two ships. The terminal building is iconic and is located on the waterfront promenade in the heart of the picturesque old city.
The deal with Antigua, signed early in 2019 will see a new cruise berth constructed in St. John’s. This fifth berth will be able to accommodate Oasis-class ships. It also covers construction of new retail shops and food and beverage facilities.
Nassau Cruise Port (NCP), a consortium comprising GPH, The Bahamas Investment Fund and the YES Foundation, began operations in October 2019. Its redevelopment project will see Prince George Wharf and its environs transformed into what the GPH corporate website indicates will be ‘one of the great waterfronts of the world’.
“We are excited to apply our best-practice model to develop the cruise offer in Nassau. Nassau will now become the biggest cruise port in our portfolio, increasing our passenger volumes by 50%,” said GPH’s CEO, Emre Sayin.
The project will involve a makeover of the Nassau port and its environs and will including enhancement of passenger facilities; the construction of a new terminal building, as well as an entertainment area. Investments in retail stores and food and beverage facilities are also a part of this redevelopment project.
Construction, which was slated to begin towards the end of 2019, was expected to be completed within 24 months.
According to GPH, the project in the Bahamas, because it connects the port area with downtown Nassau, will stimulate development in that part of town.
The company said that it will integrate the port into Bay Street and downtown Nassau, with the expectation that it will act as a catalyst for the wider development of the downtown area.
Plans are to make the port a modern, safe, world-class destination with large open spaces, as well as enough shaded areas for visitor comfort, particularly for the elderly and for children. The project will feature improved transportation connections and will include an intermodal area for bus stops, taxis and parking. The new retail area will offer cruise passengers an interesting shopping experience and an opportunity to experience Bahamian culture.
Global Ports Holding was established in 2004 as an international port operator with a diversified portfolio of cruise and commercial ports.