Ladies and gentlemen, the expansion of our cruise pier and the soon to be completed land-side development, is most certainly one of the greatest accomplishments for this Government, the Ministry of Communications and Works and our National Democratic Party Government, to date.
It goes without saying, that, I, as Minister leading the Ministry team working very closely with the BVI Ports Authority team, we are very proud to be standing here today, as this major infrastructural development project comes to the end of its first phase.
The marine side of the Cruise Pier Development is now being officially commissioned and we are well on the way to completing the land-side development, by the latter part of this year.
Starting today, as we are now witnessing, the Territory will be able to accommodate these larger classes of vessels operating in the industry.
This means, thousands more cruise ship passengers visiting our shores and hence an increase in business opportunities, for our taxi and tour operators, vendors, restauranteurs and others in the hospitality sector.
Ladies and gentlemen, when I was elected as a Member of the Legislative Council, now House of Assembly back in 1999, I had one goal in mind - I wanted to contribute in a meaningful way to the development of our beloved Territory and to help to secure a brighter future for all of the people of the Virgin Islands.
As Minister for Communications and Works over the past three and a half years, we have worked extremely hard, to ensure that the infrastructure of the Virgin Islands is maintained and improved, according to international standards, by the strict instructions of the Premier of the Territory of the Virgin Islands.
We are aware that we have some more work to do in a number of areas, but I can assure you, as Minister, that our National Democratic Party Government, under Premier Dr. D. Orlando Smith, will spare no effort on this mission, for the benefit of all of the residents of the Virgin Islands.
In terms of the reason we are gathered here on Wickham's Cay 1 in Road Town today, the capital of the Virgin Islands - this Cruise Pier Expansion Project - what we have done here, is to lengthen, widen and strengthen the existing pier.
With that, will come the necessary amenities and facilities, to ensure that our cruise ship passengers are properly welcomed and entertained while here - hence the land-side development.
The land-side development includes a Welcome Facility, Immigration and Customs offices, restaurants and shops.
At this time, I want to officially welcome and thank the officials from Norwegian Cruise Lines for their cooperation throughout the lengthy and tedious process to get us to this stage.
Whenever I get an email or visit with Colin at his offices, he is always nervous about our completing the pier. He would recall that it was in March I believe of 2012 when I went along to meet with the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association FCCA and their top team at Norwegian’s conference room, that they said “Minister, if you want to be in the cruise ship business, tear down those old tents, get your dock ready, get your landside ready, or soon, there will be no more ships in the BVI”.
We came back and we pledged to have it and we want to say that we are happy to be here. It is indeed a historic occasion and we want to thank all of them for working along with us.
I wish to especially welcome the 4,000 passengers and 1600 crew members of the Norwegian Getaway, which is making its inaugural visit to Tortola today.
We initially spent some time with the Disney Cruise Line group and our good friend Mr. Carl Holz really is the one who started this journey with the previous Government and today, we are able to have Mr. Andrew Connelly representing Disney. I wish to thank them all for being so integrally involved with us.
The British Virgin Islands is now definitely open for more cruise ship business!
I wish to thank our Premier Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith, as Minister responsible for Tourism and Finance and his teams and all of my colleagues in Government, for their overwhelming support of this project.
I want to thank the staff at the Ministry of Communications and Works, who have worked very hard at this, especially beginning former Permanent Secretary Mrs. Arlene Smith-Thompson and my current Permanent Secretary, Mr. Anthony McMaster, who has worked tirelessly to manage this project, on behalf of the Ministry, working along with the Port Authority.
The BVI Ports Authority continues to have direct oversight of this project and I wish to thank the Board, especially Chairman Mr. Ed DeCastro, Managing Director Mr. Claude O. Skelton-Cline and his staff for the hard work they continue to do and everyone previously involved in this process, including the former Managing Director Mr. Vincent O’Neal.
Ladies and gentlemen, this Government ensured that this project was being managed and built by as many local contractors as possible. We are very proud of Mr. Dion Stoutt, one of our very own, for his good work in project management. We thank you and your team.
We engaged many contractors who have done and continue to do a good job on the pier. IDL/Meridian was under pressure. Imagine, ladies and gentlemen, that what you see here has only been the work of 7-8 months of hard labour, beginning last September! We commend you very, very highly.
This speaks volumes for this project’s contribution to the local economy.
We also want to commend the local company - BVI Ports and Marine, who did the initial piling and foundation works for all of the buildings here, in record time.
Congratulations to Mr. Derek Maduro and his Project Manager, Mr. Tony Scatliffe, for a job well done.
I would also like to thank those persons in the hospitality industry - taxi and tour operators, the vendors, restauranteurs and others - for your patience as we carry out this project.
We know that our economy will benefit and so too, will you and your families.
It would be remiss of me not to mention that Mr. Hugh Darley of IDEAS LTD., was one of the designers of the original concept.
Ladies and gentlemen, I wish to end by reiterating our National Democratic Party Government's determination, to continue the infrastructural development of these islands, not as an end, but as a means to an end, to ensure that our people can benefit from the investments in the Territory.
We apologize for any inconveniences you may experience, as we forge ahead with not just this project, but many others going on around the Territory right now.
We thank you for your support and continue to crave your understanding and cooperation, going forward.
Thank you all very much for coming here today to witness this historic occasion.
I look forward to seeing all of you and many more persons, back here this afternoon at 4:00 o’clock, when we have the big celebration with our entertainment and fireworks.
God bless you all and God bless these beautiful Virgin Islands.