Officials from Global Port Holdings (GPH) yesterday sought to give the merchants of Heritage Quay the assurance that their businesses will not be negatively affected by company’s plans for the port, saying GPH’s plan is to “optimize and not to restrict”.
During a meeting held to address the concerns of the over 30 merchants and tourism stakeholders in Heritage Quay regarding the Global Ports Agreement, the GPH team informed them that GPH does not own any of the assets by virtue of the agreement and are only key players in the building process.
The team consisted of three senior GPH officials: Merger, Acquisitions and Strategy Specialist for Global Investment Holdings, Kerem Seckin; Business Development Adviser for the Americas and Caribbean, Dr. Sean Matthew; and Head of Business Development for the Americas, Colin Murphy.
The trio also told the merchants that GPH is and will continue to be a part of the tenancy of the port going forward, and that the company will be providing $5 million for entrepreneurs, another amount for youth entrepreneurship, as well as $25 million which will be dedicated to new shops that will be rented primarily by Antiguans.
Meantime, the GPH officials faced a barrage of questions regarding the reportedly cancelled cruise calls by Carnival Cruise Line. However, they dismissed those comments saying they are yet to see an official release under Carnival’s official header.
That response was subsequently called disingenuous by the president of the Antigua and Barbuda Cruise Tourism Association, Nathan Dundas, who said it was “condemning” the press.
But the GPH officials said they have been conducting business with Carnival Cruise Lines outside of Antigua and Barbuda, and therefore believe the issue could be rectified during an upcoming meeting between the two entities.
One merchant told the three men that the hostility they were feeling had nothing to with them personally, but had to do with the mismanagement of the country. This comment was supported with resounding applause from the stakeholders present.
Another merchant addressed the historic nature of Heritage Quay and voiced her concern that it will lose its significance. She also referred to the GPH officials as “colonial”, to which they took umbrage. Seckin responded that he wouldn’t be a corporate guarantor in the agreement if he was a “colonial”.
It was clear that the merchants would not be completely satisfied unless they were involved in the process. They pointed out that they, as stakeholders, should be consulted on all plans – including the Fort James project because they, more than any expert, were aware of what the tourists wanted.