By Horace Mills, BVI News Online Staff
Minister of Communication and Works Mark Vanterpool said there is good reason to celebrate today – the first full year since the delayed opening of the state-owned Tortola Pier Park (TPP).
He added that, after the first year of operation, he has a clear view of how Government will repay the loans it had borrowed to undertake the development of the said park and adjoining pier in Road Town.
TPP was officially opened on the afternoon of February 16, 2016.
The borrowed funds used on the overall project includes $50 million from First Caribbean Bank.
“It was a good investment. Although we had some over-runs, we believe that the investment is a solid one,” Vanterpool told BVI News Online this week.
He added: “When that [loan] is paid down, the park will be running free of debt. We believe we see a clear path to paying down the debt based on the numbers that are coming. Once that is paid down, we will have a park that is going to last for a long time for the benefit of the people of the territory.”
The revenues raked in from TPP were below projections up to late last year.
The Investment Prospectus, for example, showed that the government intended to collect $2,219,924 for the year 2016.
But Vanterpool recently told the House of Assembly that that projection was reviewed downwards to $1,455,497.
The minister this week stated that a few of the buildings at TPP are yet to be occupied a year later.
Also, the internationally acclaimed Margaritaville restaurant and bar is yet to undertake a planned investment at the facility.
“Except for Building Five [that is reserved for Margaritaville], we still have the rest of the project doing well. There is almost full tenancy – there are one or two stores that are being re-organized. By the end of this year – except for Building Five – the entire park should be fully tenanted.”
“They (management of TPP) are collecting their fees; the vendors are paying their bills up. So we are pleased that the investment is made. I am pleased with the investment. I want to make sure the shop owners who are there do well; we have a good array for them,” Vanterpool further said.
Big support from shipping industry
Vanterpool also told BVI News Online that, within the first year of TPP operation, he has seen significant support from shipping companies and visitors.
That, he added, has left him feeling ecstatic.
“We have been able to, in the first year, see a lot of support from the shipping companies – not just Norwegian and Disney who have been very supportive – but also from many other shipping companies that use the facilities. The last couple of weeks, you got three ships in port – two at the dock and one outside,” the minister continued.
“The park has been bustling with business. I am impressed, and the Tortola Pier Park team that’s managing it (the park) – along with the BVI Ports Authority – has been doing a fantastic job.”
Vanterpool, in the meantime, bragged that the BVI is now being recognized as a big tourism brand since TPP opened officially a year ago.
“We are becoming very popular all over the world now. We’ve had great reviews from the customers who come. I am going to a trade show in Fort Lauderdale for cruise ships on the 13th or 14th of March, and at that trade show we already have appointments.”
“A lot of people from the cruise ship companies want to see me because they want to discuss and see if they can better utilize the BVI as one of the more attractive ports that they can come to,” Vanterpool added.
Throughout the first year of the project, however, there has been much debate over the overall cost.
Vanterpool, in January last year, shocked the territory when he announced that the overall project ended up costing $82.9 million – over $30 million more than initially projected.
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