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PORT ST. MAARTEN – Port St. Maarten officials accompanied President of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) Michele Paige and Cruise Line Executives to the House of Parliament on Monday afternoon where the FCCA gave a presentation to the permanent committee of parliament for Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (Committee TEATT).

The parliamentary committee agenda was an update on the state of affairs of the cruise industry.

The meeting with the parliament permanent committee TEATT was requested by Port St. Maarten in order for Members of Parliament to get first-hand information directly from the destinations cruise stakeholder the FCCA.

The FCCA stated that cruise destinations must not become complacent and to always be innovative in order to stay ahead as the cruise industry continues to grow.  The cruise industry has grown from half a million to more than 23 million annually.

Caribbean cruise market share was once 50 per cent but is now over 35 per cent due to new markets opening up such as Australia, Asia and China.  Destination St. Maarten needed to address the challenges and re-invent itself in order to move forward in a sustainable manner.

Port St. Maarten Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mark Mingo said that he has been speaking about the challenges regarding infrastructure as well as new tours and reinventing the cruise product for a few years, and saw it necessary to request and organize this very important meeting in order for Members of Parliament (MPs) to be aware of the current trends and developments within the cruise industry and how those would influence destination developments.  

“I was very pleased with the exchange of information, the dialogue and questions and answers.  Additional information will be provided in writing to MPs as requested.

“We would like to see action taken on those issues that are necessary in order to turn-around the St. Maarten cruise product.  There are challenges, but with all hands on deck, we can re-invent the product, but Port St. Maarten cannot do it alone.  This affects everybody, and everybody has to be on-board in order to make a difference and move our cruise product forward,” CEO Mark Mingo pointed out.

The Committee session in the House of Parliament lasted two hours allowing MPs to ask questions.  

Reference was made by the FCCA about the BREA (Business Research & Economic Advisors) Report, which is a survey-based analysis of the impacts of passenger, crew and cruise line spending that was prepared for the FCCA and Participating Destinations.  The most recent edition is October 2015.

Sint Maarten led all destinations with nearly US$423 million in cruise passenger spending, surpassing destinations like the Bahamas, Cozumel (Mexico), the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico. Combined, these seven destinations with US$2.11 billion in direct expenditures, accounted for 67 per cent of the total cruise tourism expenditures among the 35 destinations.

35 destinations took part in the study.  They were located in the Caribbean, Mexico and Central and South America.

During the 2014/2015 cruise year, cruise tourism generated US$3.16 billion in direct expenditures, 75,050 jobs and US$976 million in employee wages among the aforementioned destinations.

23.6 million cruise passengers disembarked cruise ships and visited the participating destinations or embarked on their cruise at one of the six homeports over the aforementioned period. These passengers spent $2.45 billion for shore excursions and other goods and services during the 2014/2015 cruise year. Average per passenger expenditures ranged from a low of $42.58 in Trinidad to a high of $191.26 in St. Maarten and averaged $103.83 per passenger visit across the 35 destinations.

St. Maarten with $355 million in total passenger expenditures led all destinations and accounted for 14 percent of total passenger spending among the 35 destinations.

An estimated 4.5 million crew members that visited the 35 participating destinations spent an estimated $302 million for goods and services during the 2014/2015 cruise year. Unlike passengers, shore excursions are not a focus of crew spending; rather, crew expenditures are more heavily weighted toward food and beverages, jewelry, and electronic goods. These were followed by spending for clothing and entertainment.

Sint Maarten had the second highest average expenditure of $119.13 per crew visit and the third highest number of crew onshore visits (377,400); Sint. Maarten had the second highest total expenditure among the 35 participating destinations, $45.0 million. In St. Maarten crew expenditures were also concentrated on retail purchases of electronics and jewelry. These were followed by spending for food and beverages and clothing. These four categories accounted for 70 percent of total crew spending in St. Maarten.

The $423 million in direct expenditures, in turn, generated an estimated 9,259 jobs paying $189 million in wage income during the 2014/2015 cruise year. This placed St. Maarten with the highest income impact and the second highest employment impact.

The FCCA represents 19 member cruise lines operating more than 100 vessels in Floridian, Caribbean and Latin American waters.  It was created in 1972, and the mandate of the FCCA is to provide a forum for discussion on tourism development, ports, safety, security and other cruise industry issues.

By fostering an understanding of the cruise industry and its operating practices, the FCCA seeks to build cooperative relationships with its partner destinations and to develop productive bilateral partnerships with every sector. The FCCA works with governments, ports and all private/public sector representatives to maximize cruise passenger, cruise line and cruise line employee spending, as well as enhancing the destination experience and the amount of cruise passengers returning as stay-over visitors.

Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten - This past weekend, May 6th through May 8th marked the annual Anguilla Regatta where eighteen race boats, mostly from The Sint Maarten Yacht Club, entered the racing.

Four classes (Racing, Cruising, Multihull and Tradition) raced a quick race Friday from Simpson Bay to Road Bay, Anguilla and then enjoyed three races Saturday and one on Sunday.

Friday’s race over had fantastic conditions while Saturday’s racing proved to be a tough day for all.

High winds it made a challenging day, with many boats under-crewed due to the time of season.

Many local Anguillan sailors were happily ‘borrowed’ from the Anguilla Sailing Center to fill in crew spots normally taken by many of the SMYC youth sailors who spent the weekend in St. Barth’s for the St. Barth’s Mini bucket.

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Although high winds are sometimes difficult, ‘light air’ sailing can be just as tough and extremely technical. With a mix of almost every condition seen all weekend, (several storm systems with rain, high winds and eventually no wind,) the weekend proved to be thrilling and exciting for sailors of all level of skill.

The winners of the Racing Class were all Sint Maarten Yacht Club teams; ‘Team Island Water World’ in first, with 1st place wins in all five races, followed by ‘Kick em Jenny’ in 2nd and The ‘Fiji Racing Team’ in 3rd.

 

Cruising Class was won by ‘Wild Devil’ (with all five races finishing in 1st) followed by Budget Marine’s ‘Micron 99’ in 2nd and St. Barth’s ‘Speedy Nemo’ in 3rd.

The Multihull class was won by ‘Carib Cat’ in 1st place, with ‘Quality Time’ in 2nd and Lagoonies ‘TriUmph’ in 3rd.  The Tradition Class was won by a Cariacou sloop named ‘Tradition.’


Special thanks go to Regattaguru.com for providing the race committee and the Anguilla Sailing Association for putting on another fantastic regatta!

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - Dutch frigate HNLMS De Zeven Provincien, intercepted more than 320 kilo of drugs last week in het middle of the Caribbean Sea, between Venezuela and Jamaica.

This action took place in the  framework  of the international counter-drugs operation  Carib Venture,  led by the Commander Netherlands Forces  in the Caribbean.

After receiving a notification of a patrol aircraft of the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard of a suspect ‘go-fast’, HNLMS  Zeven Provinciën sailed to the designated location  for  interception.

The Belgian helicopter Alouette III, was launched to detect and stop the suspicious vessel.

Upon arrival of the frigate, the crew of the go-fast surrendered. The packages that were thrown overboard, were taken out of the water by the crew of HNLMS De Zeven Provincien.

A combination of marihuana, hash and MDMA (to make XTC) was found in them. The US Law Enforcement Detachment that is embarked on the Dutch warship, took the suspect crew into custody.

This is the fourth interception by HNLMS De Zeven Provincien. Earlier this year they intercepted 850 kg cocaine and 400 kg marihuana.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - Michele M. Paige of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association along with the 19 member cruise alliance updated the Parliament of St. Maarten Monday on the state of affairs of the Cruise Industry.

Michele Paige was the first speaker and she told Parliament about the expansion plans of the FCCA and the fact that they are projecting an increase in passenger travels of up to 24million.

She also told parliament that 9 news ships will be launched. In this environment it will be important for St. Maarten to refresh and reinvent the product that it offers.

Unfortunately the island is now expected to suffer a 22% decrease in cruise passenger arrivals this year.

It is projected that the island will only receive 1.4 million passengers this year.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – At least 21 people died when a boat sank in Haitian waters amid heavy rains, media reported, citing sources.

Rescue teams started recovering bodies of the shipwreck victims on Sunday, according to the EFE news agency. The boat was reportedly en route from Gonaives in northern Haiti to Bombardopolis, when the incident happened.

It is not known exactly how many people were on board the vessel, the media reported.

According to Haiti’s Civil Protection officials some of the survivors of the shipwreck have been hospitalised. The national maritime service is continuing the search for survivors and the recovery of bodies from the shipwreck area, the media reported.

Such incidents are common in Haiti during the rainy season. According to the Haitian Civil Protection, in the past two weeks, 28 people died as a result of the adverse weather conditions.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The survivors of 33 sailors may finally get some answers into why the El Faro cargo ship sank in the Atlantic last October. Investigators say they located the critical data recorder early Tuesday.

The National Transportation Safety Board says crews located the recorder 15,000 feet beneath the surface. Officials are figuring out how to recover the device, which records conversations, among other things.

Officials resumed the search last week with advanced sonar and imaging systems.

“Finding an object about the size of a basketball almost three miles under the surface of the sea is a remarkable achievement,” NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart said.

Given that the data recorder has been submerged for seven months, value of the data is in question. The so-called “black box” may help answer many lingering questions about what happened to the ship during the final hours before it sank.

The 40-year-old U.S.-flagged El Faro was headed to Puerto Rico from Jacksonville, Florida, and went missing near the Bahamas on October 1 with 33 people on board. The ship’s 28 American crew members and five Polish nationals are presumed dead.

The owners of El Faro said the captain had a “sound plan” to avoid Hurricane Joaquin, but the ship’s main propulsion failed, stranding the crew in the path of the Category 4 storm.

The wreckage of the nearly 800-foot container ship was located in late October. It was in 15,000 feet of water near its last known position near Crooked Island.

According to the NTSB, it was found in an upright position with the stern buried in about 30 feet of sediment. The bridge and the deck below, however, had separated and were not with the rest of the vessel.

The fact that the bridge separated was a chilling scenario to those in the industry.

“I’m pretty sure it happened very quickly and very violently,” Larry Legere, a ship captain based in Portland, Maine, said of the El Faro’s sinking. “If it was enough to rip the bridge right off that ship, it was a very violent end, and probably why they didn’t recover any survivors.”

The U.S. Coast Guard in February opened public hearings into the disaster.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - Last Friday, the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard donated a vessel to the Sea Rescue Foundation (SRF).

The boat, a RHIB (Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat) was previously used as the fast interceptor of the cutter Poema and was transported with the HNLMS Pelikaan from the Dutch Navy from Curaçao.

The director of SRF, mr. Frans Nieuwenhoven received the vessel from the Coast Guard Substation on St. Maarten.

SRF is a volunteer organization that works with the Coast Guard in Search and Rescue operations.

BELIZE CITY, Belize – The Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) this week sealed an agreement with a UN agency to strengthen governance arrangements for the flyingfish fishery in the Caribbean, with special emphasis on maximising the long-term potential of the fishery, which employs several thousands in the region and feeds many more.

Milton Haughton, Executive Director of the CRFM, signed the Memorandum of Agreement for Caribbean States; while Kirk Bayabos, Senior Cluster Manager, signed on behalf of the project executing agency, United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), a subsidiary of the UN.

The agreement is under a five-year umbrella project, the UNDP/GEF Catalysing Implementation of the Strategic Action Programme for the Sustainable Management of shared Living Marine Resources in the Caribbean and North Brazil Shelf Large Marine Ecosystems (CLME+) Project, designed to catalyse the implementation of a 10-year Strategic Action Programme (SAP), focused on the sustainable management of shared living marine resources harnessed from the large marine ecosystems in both the Caribbean and the North Brazil Shelf. The SAP was endorsed by the ministers of CARICOM responsible for fisheries and/or environment in 2014.

The Caribbean Sea is described as a semi-enclosed sea adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean, south to the Gulf of Mexico. It is one of the largest salt water seas with a diverse marine life that is fundamental to the livelihoods of coastal communities, project documents detail.

It is within this expansive marine space – spanning more than a million square miles – that the flyingfish, a species of fish which has a life-span of less than one year, but which spawns as many as 7,000 eggs several times between November and July, is known to thrive in a zone spanning from Dominica to Trinidad and Tobago.

Due to its vast socio-economic value, the CLME+ buttresses two of the re pillars: tourism and fisheries. However, these ecosystems are today being adversely impacted by pollution, habitat degradation and unsustainable fisheries and fishing practices. The 10-year SAP created under a forerunner CLME Project is aimed at tackling those threats, while also combating the threats which climate change poses to sustainable fisheries.

ORANJESTAD, Aruba - The Dutch Caribbean Coastguard (KWCARIB) detected on Tuesday during the late evening a suspect vessel during a patrol.

Their efforts to control the vessel led to a high speed chase towards the harbor of Barcadera.

A Super-RHIB from the Coast Guard Station on Aruba was supported by the Rescue and Coordination Centre (RCC) in Barcelona, ​​right on down to the point when the vessel was intercepted.

The high speed chase ended on a beach near the port of Barcadera. The crew tried to flee but were quickly stopped by the quick response of the Coast Guard personnel.

At this point the close cooperation between the Coast Guard and the Police Corps of Aruba (KPA) was launched and came to bear on the suspects. Upon further investigation, a large quantity of narcotics was found on the boat.

The two occupants, both who are Venezuelan nationals, were arrested and transferred together with the drugs to the police. The case is being further investigated.

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Federal authorities in Puerto Rico have detained eight Cuban migrants and a small Pekingese dog found on an uninhabited island near the U.S. territory.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Thursday that the group landed on Mona Island just west of Puerto Rico. Officials say that a child was part of the group and that the federal agency is temporarily caring for the dog.

Cubans are increasingly leaving their island amid fears they might lose a special status that gives Cubans automatic residency in the United States if they reach U.S. soil.

Federal agents have detained more than 150 Cuban migrants in the region so far this fiscal year. (AP)

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