“Put the letter on Facebook . . . I don’t care!” was the retort issued by Minister of Tourism and International Transport Richard Sealy tonight as he hit back at charges levelled by Opposition Leader Mia Mottley about the long delayed $300 million Sugar Point cruise ship terminal.
During her reply to the 2017 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposal Wednesday evening, Mottley charged that Government had been signing agreements wantonly and willingly across the board as she laid bare the contents of a letter to do with the project which was expected to start in 2015.
According to Mottley, Royal Caribbean Cruise Industry Limited which had entered an agreement with the Barbados Port Authority and a company called SMI to build two cruise piers with an option for a third, penned a letter in December 2016 inquiring why the project has been delayed since it was approved by Cabinet back in August 2013.
Key elements of the project include three 350 metre-long pile-supported piers providing berths for six large ships, a cruise terminal building and associated infrastructure,
multi-use land-side development and the separation of cruise and cargo operations.
The Barbados Labour Party leader, who admitted to working for the international cruise ship company prior to taking up the post of Opposition Leader, charged that while the project which would significantly boost Barbados’ cruise sector was on hold, the port was moving ahead with another initiative which involved businessman Mark Maloney.
“Would you believe that the same port is now issuing a contract for something called ‘Berth six’ without it going to tender and would you believe that having built Berth 5 at a cost overrun from $48 million to $63 million . . . $15 million more by one Mark Maloney to build Berth 5 . . . that the company has never demobilized and that in the Port . . . they have been allowed to manufacture cement piles
. . . with the authority and concession of the Chairman of the Barbados Port Inc.”
Mottley insisted that Prime Minister Freundel Stuart had “a duty to clean up the actions of the Barbados Port Inc”.
However, in a dismissive reply, a defiant Sealy declared he had nothing to hide.
He told the House that Sugar Point was not off the table but there were challenges that had to be resolved.
“SMI is in a relationship with the Government. Sugar Point is not off the table per say, but Sugar Point has challenges. It is as simple as that.
“The work being done on the existing deep water harbour . . . Berth 6, is not inconsistent with Sugar Point, but there are some challenges with Sugar Point that she [Mottley] alluded to which was the cost of the project.”
Sealy stayed clear of the charges levelled against Maloney, who Mottley referred to as the “billion dollar man” during her presentation, but stressed that discussions were ongoing between his ministry and the Ministry of Finance on the way forward.
He further disclosed that Carnival Cruiselines which is responsible for the majority of home porting in Barbados also had concerns about Sugar Point because of where it is located. Sealy also said Carnival had also raised concerns related to the tidal impact, which may mean that “they may not be able to berth vessels there constantly”.
The minister of tourism stressed that cargo and cruise facilities at the port should have been separated a long time ago and the BLP should have corrected the problem during its time of plenty.