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Now not the time for new project

Government’s decision to establish a new $300 million cruise facility at this time is “absurd”.

Barbados Labour Party spokesman Ronald Toppin said at a time when the island’s cruise sector performance was declining, the current administration was moving to undertake such a major investment when it was not now needed.

It was also being pursued at the time, the St. Michael North MP stated, when reports suggested the Barbados Port Inc was in financial difficulty.

Speaking as the House of Assembly debated the Cruise Ships (Opening of Facilities) Bill, he said: “A lot really has not been said about the details on this project. We see little snippets in the newspaper … but we have not been given yet the full details about the nature of this project. The financial arrangements of course we need to hear about.”

He added: “The Barbados Port Authority has moved from a position, Sir, of some $4.5 million dollars in profit in 2007 now to about $1.5 million in profit, it has cash flow issues. Can the minister tell us if it is true it is operating on a $9 million overdraft. These are serious financial commitments at this time to be undertaking a project that is costing $300 million.”

Toppin said the venture was “being done I would say with some exponential haste”, asserting that all of the indicators that would justify the project were down.

“You have now cargo containers showing a decline between 2007 and 2011 of some 29 per cent, the tonnage of cargo coming to the port showed a decline between 2007 and 2011 of some 27 per cent, most importantly cargo vessels coming to the port declined by 12 per cent between 2007 and 2012,” Toppin stated.

“The cruise vessels that came to the port declined from 466 for the same period to 391, so the number of vessels that are coming to the port are declining.

“I spoke to an industry player only yesterday who confirmed that certainly last year there were no complaints at all by either cruise or cargo operators about any issues in relation to congestion and unavailability of berthing space during the whole of last year and the cruise ships and vessels coming are decreasing.

“At what this time, Sir, what is the basis for making a decision to increase your capacity at this time to the tune of some $300 million, what is the justification to do it at that time…and how is it going to be paid for?” he asked. (SC)

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