REMARKS BY MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS AND WORKS
HONOURABLE MARK VANTERPOOL AT THE
OPENING OF THE 14TH CARIBBEAN SHIPPING EXECUTIVES CONFERENCE
UP'S CINEPLEX BALLROOM -TORTOLA, BVI
MONDAY, MAY 11, 2015
President of the Caribbean Shipping Association, Mr. Brantley Stephenson
Regional Government and Shipping Industry Officials
Officials from the Ministry of Communications and Works and the BVI Ports Authority
I am very pleased to bring you greetings and welcome our overseas delegates to the British Virgin Islands, as you attend the 14th Caribbean Shipping Executives Conference, being hosted by the Caribbean Shipping Association.
We got off to a fine start last evening as we mingled during the Welcome Cocktail at the Moorings Mariner Inn and here we are today at UP's Cineplex Ballroom this morning, to get the business of the week off in earnest.
I want to begin by applauding the Caribbean Shipping Association for its efforts, since 1971, to facilitate the development of the regional shipping industry.
I encourage you to continue this very important work of information exchange, training and development of our human resources and generally being The Voice of the Caribbean Shipping Industry.
With our Caribbean islands as strategically positioned as they are in this part of the world, it is definitely to our benefit to work together to maximise these advantages, as it relates to trade, travel and transport.
The Caribbean has had a history of cooperation in inter-regional relations, and it is commendable to see the Caribbean Shipping Association doing its part to foster the development of the vital shipping industry.
Here in the British Virgin Islands, we are at a critical juncture in our development, being less than one month away from General Elections to be held on June 8.
The Government of Premier and Minister of Finance, Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith, OBE has worked very hard over the years to improve the infrastructure of this Territory, for the benefit of all of its residents and visitors, in areas including our Tourism and Financial Services Sectors; our Road Network; Utilities and Transportation; our Educational Facilities; and Health and Social Development.
- we are undertaking a major road network upgrade on the four main islands of Tortola, Anegada, Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke;
- we have begun a project to upgrade our electricity generation capacity and introduce renewable energy initiatives over the next 18 months to the tune of some $40 million;
- we have a new state-of-the-art hospital on the main island of Tortola where we have spent about $100 million over the last several years and we have broken ground for a modern medical facility on Virgin Gorda;
- we have created a clear path and process for the development of our international airport;
- we have built a new Technical School and continue to upgrade the facilities and curriculum at all of our schools; and
- we are upgrading our historical sites and tourist attractions.
You may have heard that we are undertaking a multi-million dollar expansion of our Cruise Pier in the Capital City of Road Town and I know you will get a first-hand view of the facility at the cultural evening and when you tour the project later this week.
Our Government responded to the urging of leading cruise industry executives back in 2012, and immediately moved to place ourselves in a competitive position, to continue to benefit from the global cruise tourism industry.
Tourism is one of the economic twin pillars of our economy here in the Virgin Islands and it was critical for us, as a Government, to ensure the viability of this industry, for our taxi and tour operators, vendors, restauranteurs and others in the hospitality sector.
Recognising this, we set out to improve our destination, by expanding, lengthening and strengthening our cruise pier, to accommodate the larger classes of cruise ships now visiting the Caribbean.
We were pleased to welcome the Norwegian Getaway two weeks ago on April 29th with approximately 6,000 passengers and crew, when we officially opened the expanded cruise pier.
With the completion by the end of this year 2015, of the Landside Development, which includes a Welcome Centre accommodating Customs and Immigration, shops, restaurants and other facilities, the British Virgin Islands will be well poised to be a major player in the cruise industry in the Caribbean.
We continue to look to our partners in the region and internationally and offer our own expertise as well, as we collectively seek to improve the region's standing on the world stage.
So as you deliberate over the next few days, I encourage you to be mindful of the important role you play in this vital industry, which impacts the livelihood of so many of our Caribbean nationals.
I expect you to have fruitful discussions, but I also expect you to take some time out to enjoy our beautiful Virgin Islands, so that you would be enticed to come back again and again, with your families and friends and for other meetings.
Thank you very much.