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St Bess eyes cruise shipping at Font Hill

Published:Thursday | May 22, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Mark Titus, Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:

As stakeholders in Black River, St Elizabeth, continue to explore ways to reposition the town as a major economic centre, the business community is mulling the idea of inviting investors to establish a cruise-shipping pier at the scenic 3,000-acre Font Hill Properties.

According to George 'G.T.' Taylor, the president of the Black River Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the lands, which are owned and operated by the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica are also ideal for a segment of the proposed logistics hub, which is being pursued by the Government as a major economic pillar and catalyst for future development.

"We are looking into the possibility of cruise shipping coming to Black River. The Font Hill Beach property, based on the land space available, would be ideal," said Taylor. "There is also an enormous opportunity for aspects of the logistics hub on the south coast (because) it is at a central point for the western region and would be a real economic boost."

While the Black River Chamber of Commerce is not beaming with optimism about Black River being featured in the Government's plan for the establishment of the much-touted logistics-hub project, having been somewhat tardy in getting their proposal on the table, they consider the idea of establishing a cruise-shipping port as exciting.

In fact, Taylor is hopeful that a major investor will be found to duplicate the successful Falmouth Pier model on what is 'virgin territory' on a south coast which has awesome potential in terms of ecotourism, sports tourism and heritage tourism.

GREAT SCOPE

"Our vision for Black River and its environs is quite ambitious because we see the great scope for development," said Taylor. "We just need to find willing investors to drive the plans."

The once-sleepy Georgian town of Falmouth, which is sandwiched between the renowned resort towns of Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, has become the nation's foremost cruise-shipping destination since its pier. It was constructed at a cost of US$220 million by the Port Authority of Jamaica and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, and opened for business in March 2011.

"Its full time the south coast gets such a development," said Dr Lee Bailey, chairman of Caribbean Cruise Shipping and Tours Limited, in an interview with The Gleaner. "Along with Port Antonio, it is perhaps the only natural place left in Jamaica. It would be just magnificent for tourism if this could become a reality."

UNSPOILED

"The south coast is unspoiled, (and) tour agencies are on the hunt for that kind of destination all over the world ... destinations that can facilitate walking, running and environmental tours," added Dr Bailey."

"Black River, the wider part of St Elizabeth, and indeed the entire south coast, boasts all those characteristics and more ... the mountains, the bamboo avenues, the untouched havens ... we do not have that kind of terrain and natural beauty on the north coast."