Garwin Davis and Devon Evons, Sunday Gleaner Writers
William Tatham. - Photo by Janet Silvera
The call last week by Mildred McCalla, president of the All-Island Craft Vendors Association, for the removal of William Tatham as the man in charge of cruise shipping, has gathered steam, with other business interests agreeing it is time for him to go.
McCalla had charged that Tatham was inaccessible and insensitive towards the plight of craft traders. Now other business interests have noted that under Mr. Tatham's watch, not only has the local cruise industry not kept pace with other Caribbean destinations in terms of growth, but that Jamaica lost over 300 calls last year due to inadequate berthing facilities.
Cruise shipping stagnant
"This is nothing personal, but cruise shipping will remain stagnant unless there is a change of direction," commented Marcus King, Ocho Rios businessman. "Every day there is this talk about growth in the cruise sector but this is all hogwash. The fact is that we have been losing ships because we have nowhere to put them and nobody seems to know what to do. Mr. Tatham is clearly in over his head."
Nancy Thomas, a Montego Bay businesswoman agreed. "Mr. Tatham was at the forefront of the Port Authority's decision to build a marina in Port Antonio, which is now one of the biggest white elephants in the entire Caribbean. I was at the function here in Montego Bay when he was warned that the money would have been better spent elsewhere."
The function that Ms. Thomas refers to was the inaugural visit of The Imagination to Montego Bay six years ago, when senior vice-president of operations at Carnival Cruise Lines, Brendon Corrigan, warned that the Jamaican Govern-ment would do better to upgrade existing port facilities, as opposed to building a state-of-the-art marina in Port Antonio.
Existing port facilities
"I have read somewhere where millions are being spent to build a new marina in Port Antonio," Mr. Corrigan said. "I believe this money would be better spent upgrading your existing facilities so you can get more cruise ships."
A slightly stunned Mr. Tatham responded: "Brendon, in time we are going to make you eat those words."
Mr. Corrigan was, however, in no mood to relent and unflinchingly stood his ground. "Life is full of great men with brilliant ideas. good luck my friend," he retorted.
Asked by reporters to elaborate, he added: "I just thought it would make better business sense to put those millions into fixing your existing facilities in Ocho Rios or Montego Bay so you can compete with the other islands to get more ships."
Percy Mesquito, owner of the Marine View Hotel in Ocho Rios, said that with a little more vision, Jamaica could now be getting its fair share of cruise vessels akin to what is happening in Grand Cayman, the Bahamas and Bermuda. "Just imagine if we had used the Port Antonio money to upgrade the Reynolds' Pier here in Ocho Rios," he said. "We can barely get two ships per day at our cruise ports in Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Port Antonio combined, while the other islands get an average of nine or 10 per day."
Mr. Tatham said last week that he was surprised at the stance being taken by the craft traders in calling for his removal, dismissing suggestions that the country had lost over 300 calls under his watch. He also stated that his job was to ensure that Jamaica continues to be a preferred cruise destination. Earlier, he had cautioned Ocho Rios business interests against complacency, warning that the cruise lines were not afraid to reroute their vessels to Montego Bay.