By Carlena Knight
Despite previous reports that the country would welcome its first Oasis-class ship into St John’s before the end of 2021, that timeline is now highly unlikely.
Chief of Staff in the Prime Minister’s Office Lionel Hurst made the revelation yesterday during the weekly post-Cabinet press briefing.
The delay is due to the fact that dredging at the St John’s Harbour has not yet been completed for the country’s fifth berth.
“The turning basin and the channel are not yet complete and they are not yet complete because those doing the dredging have told us that they have encountered hard rock at a place where they thought they would be removing softer material, and so they had to send out for a special kind of cutting machine and that machine is now here in Antigua and doing the work,” Hurst explained.
A new timeline for the completion of the dredging and when the first Oasis-class ship will arrive has not been determined.
Operated by Royal Caribbean, the vast vessels are the largest cruise ships in the world, capable of carrying more than 6,000 passengers each. Their absence is considered by many a significant loss for the country’s slowly resurfacing cruise sector.
“Whether it will be completed in time for January, we do not precisely know,” Hurst continued.
“They are working around the clock in some instances and they are working very hard to get it done because they know it is very important to us.
“Our expectation is that they will be working much harder to get it done because they know of the importance of the Oasis-class ships visiting Antigua,” he added.
In the meantime, port operator Global Ports Holding is continuing work on the US$2 million upgrade of Heritage Quay – which includes new retail and dining facilities, plus an additional 50,000 square feet of commercial space to be put up for lease – and the US$25 million commercial development at Point.