On Wednesday, the V.I. Port Authority board addressed concerns regarding their merger with the West Indian Co. and the dredging of the Charlotte Amalie Harbor, as well as the delay of Sky High Airline’s inaugural flight to St. Croix.
V.I. Port Authority Director Carlton Dowe immediately addressed the public concern surrounding the Port Authority’s merger with the West Indian Co. after a media inquiry about the timeline for the merger of the two entities was requested with concern about the delay of dredging being done spitefully on behalf of the Port Authority. This is rumored to occur as a way for the Port Authority to keep Crown Bay as the only port capable of harboring Oasis-class ships.
According to the director, there have been disagreements regarding the dredging depth of the harbor. Relating to the merger, he said, “That will happen at some point but it is not a decision that I, Carlton Dowe, will make.”
According to Dowe, the appropriate dredging depth for Charlotte Amalie Harbor is 36 feet. Recently, Dowe, members of his staff, and Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. attended a meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers, who addressed that 36 feet of dredging is recognized as the requirement for Oasis-class ships. According to Dowe, WICO requested 40 feet of dredging; however, the money that is set aside to cover the cost of dredging can only cover 36 feet.
In December 2022, the Port Authority sent an application for dredging the Charlotte Amalie Harbor to the Army Corps of Engineers. In January, the Army Corps issued a public notice for the dredging of the harbor entrance channel, the turning basin, and the WICO cruise ship berth area. The plan is to dredge 216,000 cubic yards of material from within 43.6 acres of the harbor channel, basin, and berth area, to a maximum depth of 40 feet.
Dowe said that the authority is willing to dredge to any depth requested as long as it is paid for. However, the administration made $17 million available for dredging at a maximum of 36 feet. Once the additional money required is allocated, Dowe said the Port Authority will have no issue with dredging at 40 feet.
“Nothing that we’re doing has anything to do with trying to stop any Oasis-class vessel from going to WICO,” said Dowe. “The application today, that’s before the Army Corps is that for the Charlotte Amalie and WICO area dredging. We expect that our own will be done sometime later on,” he said, referencing future acts of dredging for Crown Bay and in St. Croix.
“All of us benefit from these vessels coming to the territory,” he said.
He added that the only company that has an Oasis-class ship is Royal Caribbean, which the Port Authority has entered into a ten-year agreement with for development plans.
Regarding Sky High Airlines, the airline was expected to begin service to St. Croix from the Dominican Republic next Wednesday; however, according to Dowe, logistical and technical challenges have pushed back the date. They are expected to have two non-stop flights between the two islands weekly and will do so once flight service begins.
Members Derek Gabriel, Willard John, Keving Rodriguez, Ariel Smith, and Celestino White were present.