By Theresa Goodwin
If construction continues at its current pace, Antigua and Barbuda will have a brand new pier to accommodate Oasis class ships by the end of October.
Government officials are expected to put the multi million-dollar facility to the test when the country welcomes the first huge ship in November.
During a tour of the facility on Friday, tourism officials told the media that the pier, dubbed the “fifth berth”, is about 70 percent complete.
Tourism Minister Charles “Max” Fernandez said, with a few minor works around the turning basin and construction of office spaces, the pier is well underway for completion.
“The Oasis class ship will be coming on the 11th of November just to ensure that everything is in place before the cruise season starts next year. The idea is to do a test run to get the feedback from the captain and so on,” Fernandez said.
The minister also stated that while the cruise season was significantly hampered by the coronavirus, he remains optimistic based on the number of partners that are still expressing an interest in the twin island destination.
“A lot of people are looking now for shorter cruises, spending less time on a cruise. Especially out of Florida, a lot of people are looking for shorter cruises and so we are anticipating that it will be a good season … the current season is about putting everything in place,” Fernandez said.
The pier forms part of a 30-year agreement between the government of Antigua and Barbuda and Global Ports Holding (GPH), which was signed in 2019, to expand the port and further develop nearby tourism areas.
The construction is being undertaken by the British Virgin Islands-based Meridian Construction Company Limited, the same company that expanded the Heritage Quay cruise pier in 2016.
Dredging work was completed by Blue Ocean Construction, which is co-owned by Meridian and the local government.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who also participated in the tour, said he was pleased with the progress made thus far.
GPH’s General Manager, Dona Regis-Prosper, also explained that the project will transform the local cruise tourism industry – putting Antigua and Barbuda in a better position to compete with other top destinations.