Sat | Sep 22, 2018

Letter of the Day | Revive cruise shipping in Port Antonio

Published:Wednesday | November 22, 2017 | 12:08 AM


Just as I was about to ask, yet again, about the prospects for cruise shipping in Port Antonio, I saw a cruise ship, the Insignia, in port on Tuesday. It has been many months since a cruise ship last called in Port Antonio, and the sight of such a ship was most welcome. However, it still begs the question: What is the future like for cruise shipping in Port Antonio?

The reasons behind the demise in cruise shipping in Port Antonio are clear and have been stated numerous times. The chief of these is the shallowness of the channel leading to the port, which precludes the mega-liners now dominating the industry from docking there. This reason was provided long ago, yet little emphasis has since been placed on getting some of the smaller cruise ships to visit on a more regular basis. If a concerted effort has been made by government officials to turn around the fortunes of the cradle of Jamaica's tourism, then it is a well-kept secret known only to a few.

What is clear, however, is that Port Antonio deserves far more than it is now getting, and Portlanders are united in the belief that only a token effort is being made to attract cruise ships to the parish. At a time when much attention is being lavished on the other cruise ports, including Falmouth, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, very little is ever heard of efforts to revitalise the industry in this northeastern port.

The net result is clear to see: Only a handful of cruise ships have visited Port Antonio since the start of the year, and most of these visits were in the earlier months of the year. It is most disheartening to hear government tourism officials mouthing the success and expansion of the industry, citing increases in visitor arrivals at most of these ports with hardly a mention of Port Antonio.

Where the town is mentioned, there are only passing references to its enormous potential and vague plans to address the glaring neglect it has suffered in recent years.


Forge way forward


The time for such empty promises has long gone. What is now needed is a meeting of industry insiders with the people of Portland to discuss the way forward. The potential to which these officials speak so effortlessly about is still there in the vast range of attractions around the parish.

Added to these are others like Nonsuch Caves, Somerset Falls and rafting on the Rio Grande, which have suffered tremendously due to the fallout in cruise shipping in the town. Townspeople understand that Port Antonio is not in the position to compete with Falmouth, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, and does not wish to. What the town needs more than ever is a steady influx of smaller, boutique-type ships on a regular basis that will help to boost its economy.

Given the invaluable contribution of the town to the tourist industry, it is the least the Government can do to help revive its fortunes.