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Senator Neville James, Chairman of the Committee on Economic Development, Planning and Environmental protection has established a direct line of communication between his office and key individuals in the Florida Caribbean Cruise ship industry. On a recent trip to Miami, Florida, Senator James met with Ms. Michelle Paige, President of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) and Mr. Richard Sasso, President and CEO of Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC Cruises) to identify specific needs to facilitate the expansion of cruise ship calls to St. Croix and the Virgin Islands.
"As a freshman senator who is relatively unknown where the cruise ship industry players are concerned, I thought it was necessary for me to engage in a personal dialogue with Ms. Paige and Mr. Sasso," Senator James said.
James initially met and dialogued with Ms. Paige at a working dinner organized by Senator Lorraine L. Berry on Jan, 13. "While those discussions were general in nature, it got the ball rolling." Senator James expressed his appreciation to the Senate President for putting that meeting together.
At the Florida meeting, Senator James and Ms. Paige dissected the passenger statistics based on data detailed in the St. Croix Economic Development Action Agenda report compiled by Triad Associates, the firm contracted by the Virgin Islands Port Authority in 2001 to address economic conditions on St. Croix, along with data from the FCCA.
"The numbers reflect what everybody already knows," James commented. "It's really a matter of attitude and implementation where the industry stakeholders are concerned. The goals are realistic and the guide has already been established. We must re-establish St. Croix as a port of call on a multi-ship per week basis as soon as possible while maintaining St. Thomas as the number one cruise ship destination in the Caribbean."
Royal Caribbean currently bunkers some of its fleet on St. Croix and would like to bunker all if possible, provided some minor dredging is done at the Ann Abramson Pier in Frederiksted. MSC Opera recently called on St. Croix on Feb. 1st, and, according to Sasso, will increase its calls once our infrastructure has met all of the industry's requirements.
Senator James, along with Senators Pedro "Pete" Encarnacion, Juan Figueroa-Serville and At-large Senator Craig Barshinger will attend the annual Sea Trade Convention in Miami in March to further enhance their relationship with other executives in the industry.
"The other Minority senators and I plan to make every effort needed to allow our underperforming assets on St. Croix to maximize its potential," James said. "The Ann Abramson Pier, as well as the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport, are not generating the revenues they can. In order to realize the maximum potential of St. Croix and develop the island into the "Gem of the Caribbean" that we know it to be, these two entities must be given our undivided attention and then some," James concluded.