Basseterre, St Kitts, October 17, 2019 – The soon to be commissioned heavily overpriced EC$150 million second cruise ship pier at St Kitts’ Port Zante is heralding a worrying cruise shipping downturn for the 2019/2020 cruise ship season.
According to the 2019/2020 cruise itinerary published by the Ministry of Tourism, a decrease in both cruise ships and cruise passengers are scheduled during the current season which began in October.
The itinerary is projecting 420 cruise ship calls with an estimated 1,086,844 passengers during the period October 2019 to September 2020, compared to 447 cruise ship calls with an estimated 1,212,462 passengers for the period October 2018 to September 2019, a decrease of 10 percent and 6 percent respectively.
Based on information printed in the 2019/2020 cruise ship itinerary, Costa Cruises, Cruise & Maritime Voyages, Plantours and TUI which had Port Zante on the 2018/2019 schedule, have dropped St Kitts completely from the 2019/2020 itinerary. Costa Cruise Line’s 3,470-passenger Costa Magica and the 3,800-passenger Costa Pacifica, brought a total of 81,290 passengers from 22 calls during the 2018/2019 season.
Also missing from the 2019/2020 St Kitts cruise ship itinerary are TUI Cruises 2,534 passenger Mein Schiff 5 and Mein Schiff 6, which have a capacity of 2,534 passengers per ship. Carnival Cruise Line which operated five ships with a total of 75 calls during the 2018/2018, season, will deploy one ship less with a total of 66 calls for the 2019/2020 season. Crystal Cruises, which booked 23 calls from its 75-passenger Crystal Esprit and the 1,010-passenger Crystal Symphony in 2018/2019, will only make six calls from three ships in 2019/2020.
Probably the most worrying reduction of all is Royal Caribbean (RCL), which will make 65 calls for 2019/2020 with seven ships, a significant reduction from the 85 calls to St Kitts from 8 ships in the last cruise ship season.
While it is no surprise that Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ships have scheduled calls to Port Zante, no two or three are listed to be in port at the same time.
“This is contrary to what the Timothy Harris, Ian Patches Liburd and Lindsay Grant Government claimed was the main reason for increasing the cost of the second pier. St Kitts Cruise tourism stakeholders were led to believe at the start of construction that RCL intended to berth two or possibly three of the largest ships in the world at Port Zante simultaneously,” said the industry insider.
“It was claimed back then by Minister Patches Liburd that it had become necessary to re-engineer the original EC$86 million design by nearly doubling the cost of the pier that had been planned by the outgoing Labour administration,” said the individual, who requested anonymity.
A perusal of the itinerary lists the Harmony of the Seas, the Allure of the Seas and the Symphony of the Seas, making just five, six and seven calls respectively.
Also cutting back on calls to St Kitts is Disney Cruise Line, Fred Olson, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line.
With the cruise sector facing such an unexpected downturn in passenger and ship arrivals, local stakeholders are expressing frustrations about the future. And with so much political boasting and economic promises by Team Unity Government politicians that preceded the project, cruise industry participants are asking how could things go so wrong so quickly?
“Is this current set back likely to get even worse in the future?” asked a Port Zante businessman.
In the face of such a huge pier construction cost overrun, Port Zante retailers have recently been expressing their own concerns about the unplanned decision by Minister Patches Liburd to reroute incoming passengers from the new pier elsewhere than via the current arrival hall entry point.
With even fewer total arrivals on the horizon, the likely customer diversion away from the main shops and tour dispatching area is causing mounting negative speculation and uncertainty to spread across the St Kitts cruise services and retail sectors.
Originally scheduled to cost EC$86.4 million under the then governing St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party administration, the cost of the second cruise pier at Port Zante ballooned to an EC$129.6 million price tag under the Timothy Harris-led Team Unity Government.
The contractors have since submitted a further claim for EC$19 million for cost overruns. The developer and contractors, and the St Christopher Air and Sea Ports Authority (SCASPA), are now involved in contract dispute arbitration.
The St Christopher Air and Sea Ports Authority (SCASPA) secured an EC$91.8 million loan from the St Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla National Bank; EC$18.9 million from the St. Kitts and Nevis Social Security Board; EC$13.5 million from the St. Kitts and Nevis Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDF) and EC$5.4 million from the St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla Trading and Development Company (TDC). It has not been made clear which one of the main creditors would fund the huge overruns now in dispute.