Hon. Mark Vanterpool, Minister for Communications and Works and [in centre] Hugh Darley, President of IDEA during a July 2012 meeting held with taxi operators on the proposed plan.
Photo Credit: Melissa Edwards/BVI Platinum News
The Tortola Port Partners (TPP) group said they are still willing to work with the Virgin Islands Government and its people despite yesterday's announcement that Government has applied the brakes to the current process involving the group which is aimed at developing the cruise pier.
TPP along with Government officials have been holding discussions about their proposal to extend the pier and an expansive land side development.
Premier and Minister for Finance, Dr. D. Orlando Smith disclosed yesterday, August 1, his Government's plans to launch an open bid process for the cruise ship pier development.
According to the Premier, this new move follows public consultation and is in line with the new Protocols for Effective Financial Management agreed with Her Majesty's Government.
Hugh Darley, Director, Tortola Port Partners said that the group remains fully committed to the Tortola Pier Park project and look forward to a potential partnership with the BVI Government and its people.
"Since being selected from several competing proposals in March, our team has worked in close cooperation with the Government and local stakeholders to design a project in the best interest of the BVI," Darley stated.
He said that TPP welcomes transparency and respect the protocols that have been established to ensure that financially successful projects are being developed in the British Virgin Islands.
According to Darley, the additional process will also allow the Government to make public the details of the proposal and of other potential developers to clear up any misinformation previously reported about the approach and project deal points of the port development.
"Tortola Port Partners remains committed to participating in projects that enhance the environment and improve the socio-economics of the project's host nation. Our mission is to identify sustainable long-term opportunities to partner with local Governments and local investors within the tourism sector in the BVI and greater Caribbean. We remain extremely confident in our continuing to invest in the Territory and its people," Darley stated.
Premier Smith shared that it is Government's view that the proper way to proceed now is to halt the process as it stands.
The Premier's announcement came just days after Minister for Communications and Works, Hon. Mark Vanterpool told BVI Platinum News that there were no plans to scale back the plans presented to the public by the Tortola Pier Partners group.
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 [Foreign and Commonwealth Office] 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."
However, Premier Smith pointed out that Government took into account the Protocols for Effective Financial Management which Government signed with the UK in April.
According to GIS, in light of the protocols, the Premier asked Financial Secretary Mr. Neil Smith to confirm that the procurement process being used for the cruise pier has met Government's new commitments.
"Mr. Smith has now concluded his examination and found that the process to date has been an attempt to ensure a credible restrictive bidding procedure." Premier Smith said Mr. Smith cannot confirm, however, that it is in line with international best practice.
The Premier said Government will be publishing the terms of reference and assessing the bids received in line with internationally accepted standards.
Premier Smith said by introducing greater transparency into the process for awarding large contracts, Government's intention is to ensure the most competitive offers and the best value for public money.
"My Government is determined to include the people of the BVI in the process of modernising our Territory - both in developing major new facilities such as the cruise pier and by operating in a transparent, efficient and cost-effective way. We will all be stronger as a result."
Meanwhile, the Premier denied that that the Government has already committed over $3M to the project.
"No money has been committed and none will be until the new tendering process has concluded," the Premier stated.
According to the Premier, the decision announced on August 1 confirms his Government's determination to go the extra mile to get the best outcome for port development and for all citizens.
A section of the proposed plan
According to GIS, the Premier maintained his belief in public consultation, transparency and value for money, and once again confirmed that no funding is yet committed.
The Premier said, "The cruise ship pier development is one of the important projects that has been under consideration for some time. We believe it has the potential to be a major, long-term success story for our people and our economy."
Under the proposed plan with TPP, Government was expected to 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 would have come from IDEA and its parent company, US-based, United Infrastructure Group (UIG).
The total investment was said to be $75M, with $25M for pier and excursion dock; $25M land side development; and $25M community investment.
According to TPP, the project would see the BVI Ports moving from a B class to A class port. They have promised to 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.