Stating that other cruise lines have signaled their interest in the $75M cruise pier and land side development in Road Town, Minister for Communications and Works, Hon. Mark Vanterpool said if Government had the money, they would taken up the development themselves. The investors for the project are IDEA and its parent company, US-Based United Infrastructure Group (UIG).
Speaking on a local television programme on Saturday, July 7, Minister Vanterpool said for Government to have pursued the development on its own, they would have been forced to acquire a loan. However, that might have also been a problem since the United Kingdom (UK) Government is not keen on signing off on any borrowings for the Territory at this time.
"...In the meantime it will happen very quickly and therefore our businesses can strive, our taxi drivers can earn better and so on. If we went about trying to raised $75M or let´s say even $50M right now on a loan it will take us about three years to consummate such a deal. If we were able to, because the British government will have to sign off on it and they are not in the mood to sign off on any borrowings right now. So we are saying that this is a deal...At the end of that time [leasing of land] whatever is there belongs to us," the Minister stated on Saturday evening.
The proposed $75M public/private partnership development was unveiled to the community on June 27 during a public meeting by the Minister and Hugh Darley, President of IDEA.
Under the proposed plan, Government will have to lease the land for 48 years to the developers, and Disney and Norwegian Cruise Lines have guaranteed a large number of passengers over the next 15 years and an increase in passenger tax. The guaranteed amount of passengers is 425,000 minimum passenger arrivals per year.
The development is referred to as the Tortola Pier Park and includes a retail village, community park, market, ferris wheel, boardwalk, a terminal building, a chapel and trolley lines.
As reported earlier, the extension of the pier is expected to be completed by December of this year, followed by the works on the project which will take one and a half years. Darley said if the plan is approved with the public input, by January 2014 it will be completed. He said they are looking to extend the pier by 300 feet in length to accommodate the bigger ships.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, Minister Vanterpool assured that they are not going to overcrowd any area, but the project will benefit taxi drivers.
The Minister said it will not just be Disney and Norwegian Cruise Lines since he is currently in talks with other cruise lines. According to him since the announcement of the project his phone has been ringing constantly with calls from other cruise lines who are showing an interest.
"My phone is ringing off the hook by other cruise lines because there is a little competition that has been established here because of what has happened; they all want to be in and come...Because based on what we will be doing with historical sites, cultural activities, and the development of the dock. Therefore the other groups are very anxious to be able to come and we are in very serious negotiations with them as we go along. The new development is creating some serious competition; and we are able to capitalized on that; and ensure that over the next 15 years minimum that we are going to have a very steady growth of cruise passengers coming in."
He reiterated, "obviously I said we are going to balance it, we don´t want an over growth but we have a good steady growth that we are expecting...Based on what we are working with. We know that Norwegian cruise line who is going to be the biggest guarantor-they are looking at an entire year...and Disney also in their development, in terms of their new ships want to come on a regular basis."
A section of the proposed plan
Minister Vanterpool stressed that the $75M investment is not with Disney or Norwegian cruise lines, rather they are just guaranteeing the passengers.
"...They are not investing any money...They are going to guarantee the partners-the BVI Ports Authority which is the government and this group [Idea] a certain number of passengers, hence certain amount of income," the Minister explained.
The total investment is $75M, with $25M for pier and excursion dock; $25M landside development; and $25M community investment.
According to the developers, the project which will see the BVI Ports moving from B class to A class port, will develop the area in such a way that it will be "married to the rest of Road Town". This, according to Government, will result in other businesses benefiting as a whole, including vendors at the proposed developed Craft Alive Market area.
Minister Vanterpool has stated that Government, through the BVI Ports Authority, will remain in control of the Road Town Port.