There will be no scaling back of the proposed $75M private/public partnership plan for the cruise ship pier and land side development; however, in response to public concerns, some aspects are being re-examined, according to Hon. Mark Vanterpool, Minister for Communications and Works.
Speaking to BVI Platinum News on Monday, July 30, the Minister also disclosed that the Government invited officials from the United Kingdom (UK) Government to have a look at the proposed project.
"We are continuing with the project. We are in two stages now. We are reviewing the public comments and the public reviews that we have had, and we will be taking those into consideration. We are also in discussions with the United Kingdom on the matter as we had planned. The stages how we planned this, is for us to put the project forward; put it to the public and following that the Cabinet would make some decisions and have discussions with the UK Government as to how we move forward with the project and we are at that stage right now," he explained.
When asked if the UK has expressed any concerns over the proposed project, the Minister said this was not the case. "No. The UK always wants to know how we are going. We invited them in fact to come and understand what we are doing with the project as we always do with a project of this nature. They came, did their review; their economist and so on was here. They have gone back with their review that they have done and we are in discussions with them on a continual basis on the matter and we expect the project to continue as planned," he stated.
The Minister said the areas which they will pay closer attention to include the issue raised with the 48-year lease of land on Wickham's Cay and the possibility of including local investors in the project.
"As you know we have not signed an agreement with the Tortola Pier Partners group because we wanted to have the public input first. We have heard the public input on two major areas; one was the number of years for the lease and second is whether there could be local investment in the project. We have heard those comments and several others that we have noted and we will be considering some of those comments to see how we can reflect them in our project going forward," he said.
When asked if this means that the project will be scaled back, the Minister made it clear that there will be no scaling back of the multi-million dollar project.
"...Scale back is not the word; the project goes as is planned. There will be no scaling back. In terms of if there will be changes, let's say for instance the 48 years, or to whether we will have local investments," he said.
Asked if the project will go forward, the Minister reiterated, "Most definitely and very urgently because it's crucial to us so we are trying to move as quickly as possible. Mr. Steven Johnson of the FCO is now looking at the package that we sent to them; we will be reviewing with them from time to time how we are going to move forward."
Under the proposed plan, Government will lease the land for 48 years to the developers while 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 the investment will come from IDEA and its parent company, US-based, United Infrastructure Group (UIG).
The total investment is $75M, with $25M for pier and excursion dock; $25M land side development; and $25M community investment.
According to the developers, the project which will see the BVI Ports moving from a 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 Craft Alive Market area. The development includes the extension of the pier, a retail village, community park, market, ferris wheel, boardwalk, a terminal building, a chapel and trolley lines.