The previous proposed project involving Tortola Port Partners (TPP), who had presented their plans to develop the cruise pier.
Photo Credit: File
Local businessman and radio personality, Donald de Castro has submitted a proposal for the development of the Road Harbour Port as an alternative to the proposal which was being pursued by the Ministry of Communications and Works.
de Castro claimed that he submitted the proposal to Works Minister Hon. Mark Vanterpool on August 10, 2012.
In the proposal which was released to the media, de Castro stated now that the United Kingdom has intervened, he hopes that one day the people of the Territory will get the truth surrounding the whole fiasco of the original proposal. He stated that while the Territory needs port improvements, misdirection and urgency will not benefit the Territory or its people.
"Anything that needs to be done in a hurry will only be to the detriment of this country and its people. So with the Pier Port Project put on hold, we should now take our time and make sure that any future plans in this area are properly scrutinized so that all Virgin Islanders/Belongers are taken into consideration and not just a select few," he stated.
de Castro said the Government and others closely connected to them are only looking at one aspect of the port development in the Road Town area, pertaining to cruise ships.
"They have shown no concern to the small or poor man or the overall needs of the Territory; their only considerations are those who can and will benefit from the endeavor. In contrast to this approach, my proposal for the development of the Road Town port will require long term intelligent thinking and planning for the overall benefit of Virgin Islanders/Belongers and other residents," he stated.
de Castro proposes:
"1. Cargo Dock - The Port of Purcell has now outgrown itself and there is no room for expansion. So at this time, I want to suggest once again what I suggested in 1961. Since food, building material and other commodities will always be coming into the country; serious consideration should be given to relocating the cargo dock to Jean Hill. With the reclamation of several acres between Jean Hill and ZBVI, we can have a cargo dock twice the size of what we presently have.
2. Cruise Ship Dock - The Port Purcell site can then be developed into a great cruise ship port with shop and other commercial enterprises owned by belongers and, in the case that belongers are unable to occupy all the available space, qualified no-belongers. As this dock is already solid land, the need for expensive reinforcement will not be necessary. In converting the Port Purcell port to a cruise ship port, the Government through the Port will be the landlord as they will be the one constructing the buildings for rent.
3. Small Cruise Ships & Mega Yachts - The present cruise ship dock can then remain as it is to accommodate the small cruise ships that will continue to come. Then emphasis can be placed on attracting mega yachts to Tortola using the same pier.
4. Administration Complex Annex - The Government can then build another office building in order to centralize more of its department and agencies and, thereby, saving millions of dollars in rent. With this annex completed, Government would have released many private buildings including store front spaces to the private sector, which is so badly in need retail space in order to start up a business or expand."
de Castro acknowledged to the Minister in the proposal that the projects will take a few years; however, he said they can do them with proper planning and cooperation between the Government and the people, without foreign investment.
"...And foreign takeover of our country leading to the demise of generations all because we hurried. We must always keep in mind what our forefathers went through; therefore we have a moral and legal responsibility that not to put our children and grandchildren in a financial situation that they will never get out of."
He added, "And while these projects are going on and the small cruise ships and mega yachts are coming, we will be able to improve our infrastructure so that when the mega ships come we are ready, willing and able to accommodate them in a manner that will make us all and the generations that will follow us proud for years to come. Let no one fool you, the small ships will continue to come and once proper birthing facilities and the right products are available and the price, they will return."
As reported earlier, the Government of the Virgin Islands has extended the deadline for the submission of proposals to develop the cruise pier and surrounding areas from August 16 to August 28, 2012. Currently, the invitation to tender is advertised in the local media, both print and online; on the websites of the BVI Tourist Board, BVI London Office and Caribbean Community (CARICOM); and in the Wall Street Journal's global print publications in the United States, Asia and Europe.
Additionally, persons can contact the Financial Secretary, Mr. Neil Smith at 1-284-468-3701 ext. 2144 or e-mail NMSmith@gov.vg. Government is calling for a wide range of requirements in its invitation for proposals to expand the cruise ship dock and develop the surrounding land.
On August 1, Government indicated an end to the former process involving Tortola Port Partners (TPP), who had presented their plans to develop the cruise pier, and announced plans to re-tender through an open bid process.
However, de Castro in his proposal to Minister Vanterpool stated that the timeframe for the tendering process is not enough.
"As I write this I see that the Government is advertising for tenders to construct something that they have already decided upon and most likely have already pre-selected a developer; this must be the case, considering the August 16 deadline, eliminating anyone that is not connected with this Government from putting another proposal together."
He further expressed, "And of course eliminates anyone that is not connected with this Government from putting another proposal together. They seem to have the same mentality of Mitt Romney and the Republican Party of the U.S and the rich must get richer and the poor must get poorer."
Meanwhile, de Castro briefly touched on the topic of departure tax.
"I have been hearing people referring to this tax as a head tax. I find both names to be offensive so I have said on my radio show more than once, we need to change the name and call it a Port Improvement/Environmental Tax. This way 50% will go to Port Development and 50% to the protection of the environment of the sea ports and airports," he suggested to the Minister.
de Castro said he is positive that visitors would feel much better contributing to that kind of a fund rather than saying to themselves, "I just spent all my money in the Virgin Islands and now I have to pay to leave". He said he will support a lower tax for legal residents.