Global Ports says it will not be competing with local interests

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The management of Global Ports Holding LLC (GPH) has made it clear that the company will not be competing against any tourism-related entity in Antigua and Barbuda.

Instead, GPH says, it will adopt a holistic approach to ensure a level playing field on which all stakeholders can benefit.

GPH chairman Mehmet Kutman gave those assurances on Tuesday during a news conference hosted at the government building which houses the Prime Minister’s secretariat.

“Everybody has to be happy. The taxi-driver has to be happy. The shop owner has to be happy. This is very important for us,” he said.

“Therefore, we have programmes for each one of them. For the taxi drivers, we have a programme where we will be importing electric cars and all those things. Then we have a programme for the shop owners and other people, and also initiatives for the youth and other people. It’s an overall package,” Kutman added.

He also conceded that the company’s representatives may have taken too long to introduce themselves to the Antigua and Barbuda public – something he blamed on a hectic schedule.

“That was my mistake and we are sorry. That is because of lack of time. I travel so much . . . We hope to overcome this in the very near future,” the Global Ports chairman said.

The government recently entered into a 30-year agreement with Global Ports Holding to invest over US $80 million for the further development of St. John’s Harbour – which includes the cruise ship docking facilities at Heritage Quay and Redcliffe Quay.

According to the government, the agreement will allow the company to bring its financial strength and expertise to the expansion project at the cruise port, and eliminate a debt of US $21 million that has not been serviced for several years.

It was also outlined in a statement that GPH will ensure completion of the dredging of the St. John’s Habour to accommodate Oasis-class cruise ships – the biggest currently in service – at the fifth berthing facility to be constructed parallel to the Point Wharf.

Many residents, including members of the main opposition United Progressive Party, have expressed their doubts about the agreement and questioned whether or not a private company should be handed the operations and management of Antigua and Barbuda’s cruise tourism facilities.

This is because the contract given to GPH also covers the country’s other cruise vessel ports, located at Falmouth Harbour in the south of Antigua and on the sister isle of Barbuda.

Attorney General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin sought to allay those fears yesterday when he told reporters that the government is satisfied the agreement is proper and there is no conflict in the law — save for one situation dealing with the Revised Caricom Treaty of Chaguaramas; something which he said is being addressed.

“We are satisfied that the Government of Antigua and Barbuda will benefit and that the people will benefit as a result. Taxi drivers will also be allowed to operate, and I think Global Ports will be in a position to have a proper management and arrangement system in place,” Benjamin said.

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