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By Shermain Bique-Charles

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The government has declared its satisfaction with the ongoing project to construct a fifth cruise berth in St John’s, which is almost 60 percent complete.

The announcement was made after tourism officials, including Minister Charles Fernandez and Permanent Secretary Walter Christopher toured the facility at the weekend.

Fernandez told Observer that he is very impressed with the progress, even more so that it is being made despite restrictions in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

 “There are targets set for completion and I am pleased that the contractors have set a shift system in place to keep people employed, at the same time allowing social distancing,” he said.

When the project was first announced, there were concerns as to whether or not local people would find employment.

However, Fernandez disclosed that about 80 percent of the people who are working on the site are citizens of Antigua and Barbuda, while the others are technical specialists from around the Caribbean who are assisting with the completion of the project.

 “We are happy about that. The idea is to allow for Antiguans and Barbudans to benefit from this transition of knowledge,” he said.

Meanwhile, Christopher said he was confident that all works on the berth will be completed by the middle of October, to include the dredging of the turning basin.

In December 2019, Antigua and Barbuda officially handed over management of its cruise ports to Global Ports Holdings after many months of negotiations which culminated in the signing of a US$80 million 30-year concession agreement. The deal includes the financing of a fifth cruise pier to accommodate Oasis Class vessels, and additional investments aimed at improving the shopping and other entertainment amenities in and around Heritage Quay, St John’s.

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