REMARKS BY MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS AND WORKS
HONOURABLE MARK VANTERPOOL
AT THE OFFICIAL CELEBRATION FOR THE OPENING OF THE EXPANDED CRUISE PIER
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 29, 2015
In February 2012, I was invited to be a guest at a meeting of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association FCCA, where I was told, that the state of affairs at the cruise pier in the British Virgin Islands needed urgent attention, if we were to remain competitive in the global cruise tourism industry.
In fact, I would let you know that before I went there I was expecting that, because I was invited to one of the ships that had arrived before on their inaugural call. I stood on the bridge of that ship and looked down on our cruise pier and landside and was very much ashamed. I looked out and saw a mess. I looked out and saw tents, old trailers, old trucks, old vehicles, which I may not have seen if I didn’t go on the bridge.
I came off the ship and I told the staff in my Ministry, including the former Permanent Secretary Arlene Smith-Thompson, Mr. St. Hilaire, you have a job to clean up this place immediately. And I must give him a round of applause as he went to work right away and eventually, we were able to provide a new Crafts Alive Village, relocating vendors to a better place.
I made a pledge, ladies and gentlemen, as Minister for Communications and Works, on behalf of the Premier and this Government, to the group at the FCCA in Florida in 2012 that the state of affairs in the Virgin Islands would not remain that way for very long.
We are very pleased, in fact, I sat around the big round table in the conference room of Norwegian Cruise Line in Miami and told them that we are interested in the cruise industry and will make a change. Mr. Colin Murphy, who heads up that division, we are glad today to let you know that we have delivered on that promise. We are pleased that we are here today, as a significant milestone towards that promise.
The unwavering commitment of our Premier and Minister of Finance, Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith, OBE, our Ministers of Government and the resolve of the House of Assembly as a body, to execute this project, is highly commendable.
Ultimately, having gone through various stages of negotiations and procurement, we were able to accomplish these two 15 year Berthing Agreements with two consecutive five year renewals with our partners in this development - Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Disney Cruise Line.
Ladies and gentlemen, we express our appreciation, in earnest, to Mr. Carl Holz, President of Disney Cruise Line, who initiated his interest in a Memorandum of Understanding with the previous Government and continued his commitment, on behalf of Disney Cruise Line, under this Government.
We also commend Mr. Russell Daya, Director of Global Port Operations and Developments for Disney Cruise Line, for the endless hours spent to complete the Berthing Agreements and monitor the progress of this project, to date.
Similarly, Mr. Colin Murphy, Senior Vice President of Destination and Port Operations for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, has vested many, many hours, and he and I went back and forth, Miami, here, at lunch, at dinner, as we tried to wrap up the negotiations and a very solid Berthing Agreement. There were anxieties, frustrations, excitement and fulfilment, all along the way, to get us to this stage.
I remember when I thought it was all over and everything was set with the Berthing Agreement, here comes an email from Colin - something is wrong. But we were glad that we got it all settled.
I thank Mr. Andrew Duckworth, Director of Destination Management for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdingss, who is here, who has been making his input throughout the process.
I must not forget Mr. Hugh Darley of IDEAS LTD. who was one of the designers of the original concept and I wish to thank him for his contribution to this project.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased as Minister, on behalf of the Government, to have worked closely with my former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Communications and Works, Mrs. Arlene Smith-Thompson and the former Managing Director of the BVI Ports Authority, Mr. Vincent O’Neal.
I also take this opportunity, to thank and commend the former Acting Chairman of the BVI Ports Authority Board, Mr. Greg Adams and former Board members, for their input in getting to this stage.
I am particularly pleased to commend current chairman of the Board, Mr. Ed DeCastro and his team, for the tireless hours that they have put in, to ensure that as directed through Cabinet’s approval, this significant capital project is carried out, on behalf of the Government and people of the Virgin Islands.
When I saw the state of affairs, I went back to my Ministry and said to my Permanent Secretary: this project does not demand a now and again attention. I want this project to have daily attention. Hence, we immediately hired a Consultant on the project. That Consultant was none other than Mr. Claude Skelton-Cline, who took on the project from that time as a Special Adviser to me as Minister, to ensure for one year, that it got full attention on a daily basis. And indeed he, in his capacity as Adviser and now as Managing Director, has played a significant role in ensuring that we are at this stage of this project.
I like to surround myself with hard working team members. So, I must include the hard work being done by the Action Permanent Secretary, Mr. Anthony McMaster, along with Mr. Vance Lewis, my Adviser and all of the team members of the Action Ministry of Communications and Works and its various Departments. I want to say thank you to them.
Ladies and gentlemen, this Government set out on a mission to Build a Better Virgin Islands.
I am pleased that I have been able to journey to this stage with my team:
- To deliver a brand new spanking hospital;
- Break ground for a brand new Medical Facility on Virgin Gorda;
- Deliver a state of the art Technical School that has been talked about for many years;
- Put this Territory on a clear path to develop a sustainable Environmental Policy;
- Begin the process for a review of the minimum wage; and
- Create a clear path and process for a new Airport Development here in the Virgin Islands.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am also proud to be a part of a Government that continues to ensure an increase in overnight and cruise tourism visitors, under the direction of our Premier and Minister for Tourism, who has, without a doubt, been the right person to navigate a way through difficult times, in our Financial Services business of the Territory.
Permit me to say here, it is very important for us as Virgin Islanders, to understand that we are at a critical stage in the development of our Virgin Islands and at this critical stage, we need leadership that can handle the tenacity, the negotiations, the right spirit and the right approach, to take these Virgin Islands through these hard times.
I have to admit, ladies and gentlemen, that type of leader could not be me Mark Vanterpool, because I don't have that same tenacity, that same faith and patience and I don’t have that same diplomacy that Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith, OBE has right now, to meet the folks in London, in Australia, in Hong Kong and all over the world, to be able to help to pilot this country through its difficult stages in various areas at this time. We have the right leader at the helm and I feel good about it. The right leader at the right time for these our beautiful Virgin Islands. Thank you Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith, OBE.
Ladies and gentlemen, I want you to understand that this is Your Government At Work, to develop and stabilize our power supply through a new Phase V Development at the BVI Electricity Corporation, as well as begin the process, through legislation recently passed, for a new path to renewable energy in the Territory of the Virgin Islands.
This is the Government I speak about, ladies and gentlemen, Your Government, that has seen it fit, to:
- Aggressively pursue a Sewerage Programme;
- Upgrade our Water Distribution Network;
- Undertake a major Road Rehabilitation Programme;
- Undertake a City Development Programme and;
- Carry out an all Ports Development Programme
Ladies and gentlemen, this Cruise Pier Development, is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, a hallmark, of a Government that is determined to lift the standard of living for its people in the Virgin Islands, now and for generations to come.
So I say that the delivery of this project in the circumstances and hurdles that we been through, reminds me of the famous Jamaican reggae singer lyrics and I quote:
"Action speaks louder than words
Don't be deceived by all those fancy talkers
Coz a man can say he will turn your night into day
Or a man can say he'll take your sufferings away
Or a man can say he'll roll your dark clouds away
When it comes to doing, showing, gonna take some knowing
Action speaks louder than words".
Thank you ladies and gentlemen and may God bless the people of these beautiful Virgin Islands.