Port Antonio to get cruise-shipping activities – Tatham
Despite the protracted lull in cruise-shipping activity in Port Antonio, William Tatham, the vice-president of cruise operation at the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ), says the resort town remains an integral part of the PAJ's plan to attract more traffic to the region
"Port Antonio is important to us, but we continue to struggle because it cannot accommodate mega vessels that the other ports can, only small vessels with about 200 to 500 persons," said Tatham, in an interview with The Gleaner last Thursday. "That said, we are aggressively marketing the location. It remains very important because we own property on Titchfield Hill; we also own the Navy Island, so we have very high stakes there."
Tatham, who was among several local officials in Falmouth, Trelawny, for last Thursday's welcome reception ceremony for Royal Caribbean International's, Anthem of the Seas cruise ship, which made its inaugural stop at the historic Falmouth Pier, is one of the most respected voices in local cruise-shipping.
Unlike Falmouth, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, cruise-ship visits to Port Antonio have been few and far between in recent decades, albeit that it is rated as one of the finest natural harbours locally. In recent years, its Ken Wright Pier was converted into a posh yachting marina and named after the famed American actor Errol Flynn, after indicators that the town would be dropping down the pecking order because it did not have the capacity to accommodate mega cruise lines.
According to the PAJ's monthly statistical report, only three vessels with a combined 230 passengers visited the picturesque parish capital between January and October 2015. In fact, since 2010, Port Antonio has welcomed only a mere 4,265 passengers on 26 vessels.
In comparison, Montego Bay saw 585 vessels carrying 1.6 million passengers, and Ocho Rios welcomed 641 cruise vessels with 2.55 million on board. Falmouth, the hub of local cruise-shipping, leads the way with 3.04 million passengers from 751 vessels. The Falmouth Pier became operational in March 2011.
Despite the all but dismal cruise-shipping figures, Tatham says he is upbeat about the impact strategies now being employed to attract more activity to the Errol Flynn Marina, which also features a boatyard.
"We built the marina at the time because Jamaica needed a marina, but without having a full appreciation of this aspect of the industry; but we have learnt a whole lot and I am very optimistic about Port Antonio than I have ever been," stated Tatham.
Tatham also revealed that the PAJ has been hired to critique the operation of the marina as they move to dominate the market.