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The long-awaited dredging and expansion of St. John’s Harbour is experiencing yet another delay.
The anticipated completion date has now been pushed back to the end of the year, causing concerns for many in the community.
Even the Tourism Minister, Charles Max Fernandez, shares the same concern about the constantly shifting deadline. However, he explained that there are several reasons why the deepening exercise at the port has had to be postponed once again.
One of the reasons for the delay, according to Fernandez, was the decision to engage Blue Horizon as the company responsible for the dredging.
He disclosed that going with this company has saved the country significant sums of money. Furthermore, Blue Horizon is partially owned by the Antigua and Barbuda government, which benefits from any profits made by the company.
Fernandez reported that when the contract was initially signed, Blue Horizon was told to dredge the port to a depth of 11.8 metres.
However, they have since adjusted the depth requirement to 12.3 metres, which has caused further delay.
After the dredging is complete, representatives from the Royal Caribbean cruise line will visit Antigua to carry out their own inspections.
The Oasis class vessels will only be permitted to call at the St. John’s Harbour after these inspectors give the green light.
The minister noted that there is a bigger class of cruise ships, the Iconic Class, that are currently being built.
However, these ships would require even further depth in the harbour, which would require a significant investment.
Fernandez is suggesting that there be a need for a frank discussion on whether investing in the millions it would require to undertake this additional dredging would be beneficial to the country.
This discussion may raise questions about the number of cruise visitors that the country can accommodate on a given day without causing too much disruption to normal operations, which may spark a pushback from residents.
These are critical questions that need to be addressed when the time arises.