Madam Speaker, Tortola Pier Park, is an infrastructural development project that brings a tremendous level of pride, to every BVIslander and resident of this Territory of the Virgin Islands.
The project consists of the lengthening and widening of the existing cruise pier in Road Town and the development of nearly five acres of adjacent land, into a shopping and entertainment centre.
IDL Meridian started marine work in August 2014 and completed the project in under a year, in July 2015.
We anticipated having the landside development almost completed by this month, with a grand opening scheduled for tomorrow Tuesday, December 22nd.
However, while the public will be given access to the Park from Tuesday December 22nd, we have decided to reschedule the grand opening to February 16th, 2016, when more shops would have been outfitted and opened.
Two final components of the project are expected to be completed by the first half of 2016.
These are a restaurant development on the south western side and a floating dock on the north eastern side.
Madam Speaker, allow me to provide an update on the project to date.
We now have a pier that is 60 feet wide, 1,312 feet long, and that can berth ships up to 180,000 Gross Registered Tonnage, known as GRT.
Work continues on the construction and opening of an all-time state-of-the art modern shopping centre, with provision for close to 60 stores, including retail, service providers, commercial spaces and space for offices.
Madam Speaker, several years ago, our Government took the bold and necessary step to embark on this project, confident that this was the right thing to do, if we wanted to bolster the crucial cruise tourism industry.
This project was solidified with the signing of Berthing Agreements between the British Virgin Islands Ports Authority and Norwegian Cruise Lines and Disney Cruise Lines on January 17th, 2014, to ensure that there will be a minimum of 425,000 cruise passengers visiting the shores of the British Virgin Islands annually, for the next 15 years.
We are already realizing the fruits of our labour, with the increase in cruise ship visits to the Territory and the business opportunities created for our ships' agents, tour operators, taxi drivers, ferry companies, vendors, restauranteurs and other businesses in the hospitality industry.
Madam Speaker, this development has not only provided many jobs during its construction phase, but it is expected to provide about 200 permanent jobs for residents of the Territory.
To put all of this into perspective, our statistics show that from October 2014 to December 2014, we had 94,428 cruise passengers visiting our shores.
For the same period this year, October to December 2015, we have an anticipated 84% increase, to approximately 173,369 passengers for a quarter.
We are expecting a total of 340 cruise ships ships throughout the entire 2015/2016 season, compared 2014’s 269 ships.
ANNUAL COMPARISON 2014 and 2015
November 20th was an historic day for us, as we welcomed Cunard’s flagship, Queen Mary 2, which was able to berth at our expanded pier for the first time.
The Queen Mary 2 is among the top 10 largest cruise liners in the world, being 1,132 feet long, with a Gross Registered Tonnage or GRT of 148,528.
Madam Speaker, so far for the season, we also welcomed several ships to our shores on their inaugural call:
1. MeinSchiff on November 12th;
2. Britannia on November 15th; and
3. Norwegian Breakaway on December 4th;
We are expecting the Disney Ships in as of tomorrow, December 22nd, when the Disney Fantasy will make its inaugural call and the Disney Wonder on January 9th, 2016.
Other inaugural calls for the season will include the Celebrity Constellation on February 20th and the Serenissima on March 7th.
Madam Speaker, in terms of the buildings:
1. Building #1 is completed. The entire ground floor now tenanted and the upper floor is partially occupied by the BVIPA;
2. Buildings #2, #3 and #4 - Tenant fit out is still ongoing and they are expected to be operational this month;
3. Building #5 - Two tenants have now opened their doors within this building and an additional tenant has started their fit-out on the ground floor;
4. Building #7 will be completed in a few days;
5. Buildings #13 and #14 - There is still some interior and exterior finishing to be done and as a result the handover has been delayed; and
6. Buildings #12 and #16 are also substantially completed.
Building #6, which is expected to house the flagship restaurant Margaritaville, is expected to be completed by June 2016.
In terms of the hard scape, which include the roadways and walkways, we are almost completed.
Construction of the boardwalk surrounding the Park, is progressing well and this is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
Kiosks on the north eastern side will be erected in January, following the boardwalk completed.
Madam Speaker, the Tortola Pier Park Leasing and Placement Programme continues.
We have had 269 Letters of Interest and 79 approved applications, including the 17 kiosks.
72% of leases have so far been signed.
The tenant mix, as at November 30th, includes tours; art, pottery, souvenirs and gift shops; travel accessories; fashion clothing and accessories; beauty, perfume and cosmetics; telecommunication services; jewelry and accessories; food and beverage; medical services; banks and conference facilities.
Madam Speaker, this Government is determined to ensure the viability of the cruise ship sector and by extension the tourism industry, for the benefit of all of our people.
I would like to express gratitude to everyone who had a part to play in this major project so far, including the Government of Premier Dr. Orlando Smith, the BVI Ports Authority, the BVI Tourist Board, our financiers, the contractors, workers, tenants and others.
I would also like to thank you the people, for your patience and cooperation.
We will report to you periodically, including a full Financial Report, in the first quarter of the New Year.
I conclude by reminding this Honourable House that the Tortola Pier Park will be opened to the public tomorrow Tuesday December 22nd.
However, the grand opening ceremony has been postponed to February 16th, 2016.
Thank you Madam Speaker.