KINGSTON, Jamaica – Minister of Transport and Works, the Hon Mike Henry, says that while Falmouth will attract much attention for its new cruise ship pier accommodating some of the world’s largest cruise vessels, the Government will not allow Montego Bay and Ocho Rios to wane.
“I want us to stop thinking in a declining position, and start thinking of Jamaica,” Mr. Henry told JIS News in an interview at his Ministry, Maxfield Avenue, Kingston on Friday (February 18). He was elaborating on his Ministry’s involvement in the development of the new Falmouth cruise ship pier, and plans for further developments in the tourism areas.
He said that while the new Pier will accommodate larger cruise vessels coming into Jamaica, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay would continue to benefit, and would be assisted in maintaining their competitive edge in the industry.
“We have to find some US$30 million to increase the dredging at Ocho Rios. We expect Ocho Rios to continue to get the same amount of passengers as last year…Montego Bay will benefit from the rehabilitation of the rum tour and the rail, which I am working on very hard to have (in place) in the next six, nine, ten months,” Mr. Henry said.
He noted that the main attraction in Ocho Rios, Dunn’s River Fall, is being marketed very heavily by Royal Caribbean Cruise, and should provide a critical link benefiting shopkeepers and owners of attractions along the way between both towns.
“I have asked them (Royal Caribbean) to work hand in hand with the shopkeepers in Ocho Rios. They could lay on transportation for persons who may want to shop on their way to Dunn’s River Fall. So, basically, I think they (Ocho Rios) will hold their numbers,” the minister said.
He said discussions are continuing with Carnival Cruise Lines, main users of ports in Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, and Port Royal was still on the burner for discussion, despite the long delay in its development.
“I am even widening that to look at Portland, down the road, in terms of the development that must take place in the Navy Island area, and then you could end up appealing to different kinds of cruise passengers: We haven’t even touched yachting and we haven’t developed marinas for boat owners yet,”Mr. Henry noted.
He said that Falmouth should not be seen as competing with the other cruise shipping piers, but as a critical addition in light of recent developments in cruise shipping.
“If we never built Falmouth, then what you will end up with is what RCCL has done, which is to build an island off Haiti and make stops there. They can dredge and replicate without you actually being in the place,” he said in an obvious reference to Royal Caribbean’s private paradise on the north coast of Hispaniola, Labadee.
Mr. Henry praised the Port Authority of Jamaica, and its chairman and CEO, Noel Hylton, as well as staff of his and other ministries for their input into the development of the Falmouth Pier.
The port is a US$221 million joint effort between Royal Caribbean and the PAJ. A much wider 18th century concept of the town, including cobblestone streets, ancient tramcars and the planting of some 500 trees, to give it a special historical flavor, is still being developed.
He said that the response of the resident was very encouraging, which has contributed to the success of the project, so far.
“They were very excited about the project, and we hope to continue to grow that relationship as we develop. It is a work in progress- three to five years of work in progress”, Mr. Henry noted, pointing out that, eventually, the port will accommodate 600,000 to 800,000 cruise ship visitors per annum.
The Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) on Friday (February 18) announced that the Falmouth Cruise Terminal has met all navigational requirements and is now ready to accept the megaship, Oasis of the Seas, which is scheduled to make its inaugural call on Tuesday, March 22.
“A technical assessment of the state-of-the-art pier, following today’s arrival of Voyager of the Seas at 8 a.m. sharp, confirmed that the berthing facilities met and surpassed global standards,” the PAJ said in a release. The PAJ has invested US$170M in the terminal, which is indicative of its continued commitment to the development of Jamaica as the premier cruise destination in the Caribbean.
“We would like to express our sincere appreciation to our main partners, the Royal Caribbean Cruise Limited, for forming this strategic partnership,” Mr. Henry said, as he commended stakeholders for their contributions.