Those who submitted bids to serve cruise ship visitors with waterside transportation at five different harbor stops got some unexpected competition when changes were made to the Request For Proposals earlier this month.
The deadline to submit bids is 4 p.m. on Friday. The RFP calls for a qualified marine operator to provide water shuttle service from the Austin Babe Monsanto Marine Terminal in Crown Bay to Water Island, Charlotte Amalie Harbor, Havensight and Yacht Haven Grand.
A spokesman at Government House said changes to the RFP came after the second meeting of the Charlotte Amalie Task Force. The task force was formed April 12 by Gov. Kenneth Mapp. At that time the governor called on leaders from the public and private sectors to help revitalize Charlotte Amalie, once the number one cruise ship destination in the Caribbean. Mapp said he did so after hearing a lackluster review from a top official at the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association.
The complaint from that official was that Charlotte Amalie had gone stale as a destination. The overall destination experience, they said, lacked appeal. One of the top suggestions to improve the product was to reduce reliance on ground-based transportation around town.
But by the time the task force met again on June 1, new thoughts had surfaced. Government House spokesman Sam Topp said task force members took a second look at the kind of vessels they wanted to use in the shuttle service.
Instead of awarding the bid to one company with one type of vessel, Topp said, a mix of different sized vessels became the preferred choice. Depending on the time of year and the number of visitor arrivals, he said, it would be wasteful to have only larger sized vessels traveling the route.
Water transportation options currently seen in the harbor range from 100-foot ferry boats to 65-foot boats, smaller water taxis and the even smaller Water Island Ferry.
After the June 1 meeting, the task force conveyed its wishes to the Department of Property and Procurement, which manages the request.
Officials at P&P were not able to say when the modified proposal was published. Records appearing on the agency website indicate four amendments have been made to the original request.
Mapp said he’d like to see a winning bidder selected and work on setting up the water shuttle service completed in time for the start of the 2017-2018 Winter Tourist Season.
Members of the task force include Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty, Public Works Commissioner Gustav James, Property and Procurement Commissioner Designee Lloyd Bough Jr., Senator Neville James, chairman of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, the past and present chief executive officers of the West Indian Co., Ltd., Joseph Boschulte and Clifford Graham, and members of the business community.