Authorities are giving the assurance that the planned cruise facility being touted for Speightstown would not impact negatively on the environs or disadvantage small businesses or residents in the area.
However, during a townhall meeting on Wednesday night at the Alexandra School, a number of residents had their say, calling on officials to be very thorough in all their investigations and studies before any final decision was taken.
Several concerned individuals who said they were either familiar with the area or lived close by, said they welcomed the plan development but warned authorities against reclaiming land for the project, saying this could make flooding in some areas worse or impact on future developments.
They also expressed concern that a lot of the beaches would disappear when a cruise ship facility is set up in the area, and that some people could be forced to relocate while some businesses may have to close.
The residents also questioned what provisions were being made in the plans for taxi spaces, car parks, an adequate sewerage system, effective transportation in the area and very little disruption to the road network.
However, officials stressed that no decision has yet been taken, adding that they were still gathering information to see the various effects such a development could have on the area.
So far, some six expressions of interest have been received from those wanting a stake in the development, and officials are in the process of carrying out consultations.
No decision has been taken on whether the private/public sector project would include the building of a jetty or construction of a breakwater structure.
However, once the necessary arrangements are in place for the technical studies to be conducted and proposals are submitted for the development of a pier, officials are expected to return to Barbadians for further discussions.
No cost has yet been announced for the development, which is expected to run into the millions.
The hope is for the pier to be located somewhere between the northern end of Sand Street and the esplanade and fishing harbour area.
Officials have also given the assurance that any plan would ensure the protection of the reef and the coastline along that area, address drainage problems to help deal with flooding and beach erosion, and ensure the continued landing of vessels for fisherfolk.
Making their case for the development of a pier facility in the north of the island, officials explained that provisions must be made for the “boutique” ships as the island continues to grow its cruise business and expand the Bridgetown Port for the larger vessels.
Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey gave the assurance that Government would not do anything to compromise Speightstown and the chosen location.
He said a pier facility in the northern town would be an upgrade to the island’s bread and butter tourism product, and would result in increased economic activities as the island seeks to welcome more cruise ships.
Member of Parliament for the area, Minister of Labour Colin Jordan also pointed out that increased economic activity was needed for the quaint town, but said the people would be “taken into account”.
“What we are speaking to is not just a facility to cater to the needs of visitors to the country. A pier for us is an economic vehicle that allows people to develop, to raise their standard of living while taking care of the guests who come to the country,” said Jordan.
“We believe that the development of a cruise pier will redound to the benefit of all stakeholders – residents, business people and visitors to the country,” he assured.
Following discussions, lawmakers are expected to come up with a policy to help with the wider social and economic development of the northern areas.
Civil Engineer David Lashley, who was selected as the consultant for the Port on that project, gave the assurance that the request for proposals outlined various specifics including the need for transportation requirements.
And while some residents said they would want some of the bigger ships docking offshore in the north, Lashley said that could pose a challenge since it would require a lot of dredging.
Lashley pointed out that officials would ensure that all investigations are conducted to meet all the necessary requirements of the required agencies and departments.