Anthony Ottley, president and CEO of West Indian Company, and Charlene Turnbull, chief financial officer, gave the WICO Board of Directors Friday reports showing cruise passengers returning to the territory but not in the numbers seen before COVID, and this is resulting in financial shortfalls.
Also not helping is the fact, stated several times during the meeting, that WICO has had to turn away 21 Oasis-class ship visits due to the harbor not being dredged.
Responding to a request from the Source, the officers said, “Until this critical project is started and completed, we will continue to lose ships to other competing destinations in the Caribbean.”
WICO officials met at the end of June with Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. to emphasize the importance of the dredging.
Of the $6.4 million revenue generated by WICO for the fiscal year 2022, through May, according to Turnbull, $4 million came from the American Rescue Plan Act. The remaining $2.4 million was generated as follows: $1.6 million from passenger fees, $305,000 from the rental of land, and $500,000 in miscellaneous income items.
She added that $5.2 million of the $6.4 million that was spent went to four accounts — depreciation and amortization, $2 million; salary and wages, $1.5 million, interest expense, $1 million, and insurance, $700,000.
WICO had a net loss of $73,526 for the fiscal year period to May 31, 2022, which, according to Ottley, “is considerably lower than the loss incurred for the same period in the prior year.”
WICO expects 32 cruise ships to call in at its dock over the next three months, but the number of passengers on the ships has been remaining low, with ships carrying between 40 and 60 percent of their capacity.
WICO officials said the situation is fluid with ongoing ship scheduling changes as well as changes from the Department of Health concerning measures taken during the pandemic. In the written report, officials stated, “The cruise restart has been slow for the 2021/2022 tourism season, but we are optimistic that in the fiscal year 2023, revenue earned from passenger fees should be significantly higher as we have transitioned from a pandemic to an endemic.”
WICO welcomed the first cruise ship, after 500 empty dock days, in September.
Through a charter issued by the Danish Government, WICO was founded in 1912 to assist in the economic development of the then Danish West Indies, with maintenance and dredging of the Charlotte Amalie Harbor as one of its responsibilities. WICO built and still owns the cruise ship dock at Havensight.