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RCL Cruise Vessel arrives November 5. RCL Eager to return to Destination

PORT ST. MAARTEN – Royal Caribbean Line’s (RCL) Grandeur of the Seas will be the first commercial cruise vessel to return to the destination post-Irma on Sunday, November 5th.  RCL as of that date will also be carrying out an adjusted cruise itinerary for the remainder of 2017 which will be published within short.

Grandeur of the Seas was launched in 1996 and is part of the Vision-class of RCL.  The vessel has 11 decks and carries 2,446 passengers and 760 crew, and went through a comprehensive revitalization in Cadiz, Navantia Shipyard in May 2012.

A delegation from RCL recently met with Port St. Maarten Board, Management and Minister of Tourism & Economic Affairs Mellissa Arrindell-Doncher, about the quick recovery efforts of the destination that are underway.

Port St. Maarten Management and Board briefed the RCL delegation about the current state of affairs at the Dr. A.C. Wathey Cruise & Cargo Facilities. Information was also provided about the Great Bay Beach Promenade, the commercial center of Philipsburg, Front Street and other areas of interest from a tourism perspective.

RCL Executives carried out a site visit as part of their destination readiness assessment to accept cruise passengers, and the availability by early November of tours, shore excursions, shopping, beaches, and other cruise tourism related amenities.

RCL was full of praise for Port St. Maarten Board, Management and Government with respect to the diligence carried out by the aforementioned to get the country ‘cruise ready’ for November in order to bring in much needed foreign exchange into the economy that would kick-start the economic engine of the country – (cruise) tourism.

Destination stakeholders have placed much effort on safety and security over the past weeks which has allowed for normalcy to return to the daily life of the people of the country.

Clean-up efforts continue and there have been no reported health risks which demonstrates the measures taken to-date by the authorities have been adequate to protect public health.  

Royal Caribbean International is part of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. is a global cruise vacation company that owns Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Pullmantur, Azamara Club Cruises and CDF Croisières de France, as well as TUI Cruises through a 50 percent joint venture.

Together, these six brands operate a combined total of 43 ships with an additional six under construction contracts, and two on firm order. They operate diverse itineraries around the world that call on approximately 490 destinations on all seven continents.

Port St. Maarten Management encourages the business community and other stakeholders to remain steadfast in rebuilding the nation over the coming days and weeks in preparation for the first commercial cruise ship visits.   

RCL is an award-winning global cruise brand with a 46-year legacy of innovation and introducing industry “firsts” never before seen at sea.  The cruise line sails 23 of the world’s most innovative cruise ships calling on more than 288 destinations in 77 countries across six continents visiting the most popular destinations in Bermuda and the Caribbean, Europe, Canada and New England, Alaska, South America, Asia, and Australia and New Zealand.

In 2009 Royal Caribbean revolutionized the industry once again with the introduction of Oasis class. An architectural marvel at sea, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas span 16 decks, encompass 220,000 gross registered tons (GRT), carry 5,400 guests at double occupancy, and feature 2,700 staterooms.

Most recently, the line introduced the Quantum class which introduced unprecedented innovations in ship design, thrilling activities, game-changing technology, multidimensional entertainment and Dynamic Dining – a new dining concept featuring flexible dining opportunities. The Quantum class spans 18 decks, encompasses 167,800 gross registered tons, carries 4,180 guests at double occupancy and features 2,090 staterooms.

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Satellite garbage depots to be closed on Wednesday at 6.00PM

POND ISLAND - The department of Infrastructure Management is hereby informing all contractors to please stop dumping debris at the following four satellite landfills effective Wednesday October 11th 2017 at 6.00 pm.

The locations are as follow:

  1. Jose Lake ballfield parking lot in Cul de Sac
  2. Property by Caribbean Cinema in Cole bay
  3. Government parking lot at KIMSHA beach
  4. Open lot next to the De Weever property in Dutch Quarter

The department is busy clearing all properties completely, to be able to sanitize the areas to prevent any hygiene problems.

All contractors are informed not to dump anymore debris at these locations and to make use of the new landfill opened beside the Little League Stadium, which is accessible from the Soualiga Boulevard at the beginning of the Northern side of the landfill.

Directive boards will be placed to facilitate the directions to the new entrance.

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Lagoon cleanup to start soon

PHILIPSBURG - Following the press release by President and Managing Director Jeff Boyd of Yacht Club Port de Plaisance regarding it’s reopening on November 1st, he and his management team would also like to keep the people of Sint Maarten informed of their efforts to ensure that Yacht Club Port de Plaisance may resume regular business as soon as possible by securing the required specialized equipment for the removal of sunken vessels.

Boyd said, “As you can imagine, time is of the essence with the yachting season approaching in less than 30 days and thus the rebuilding of the marinas, which by the way is already in progress with materials on order and local contractors lined up to start repairs once feasible, can only start, once we have the wrecks removed and that will take time.”

Though finding companies with the right equipment and experience has been difficult as the BVI and USVI are likewise in need of this same equipment and are considerably closer and the passing of Maria which caused further delay, we are pleased to announce that the salvage crew arrived on Monday with a 150 Ton crane, Barge and heavy equipment to assist with the removal of the damage vessels and debris in the lagoon.

In operations such as these, the removal of the sunken vessels is often times the easier part of the task. Taking the necessary precautions and making sure that the environment and thus water quality in the lagoon is not compromised, becomes the even harder task. For that reason, we have also involved and sought guidance from the St Maarten Nature Foundation, Mr. Tadzio Bervoetz who will assist us with each and every lift we perform on a go forward basis. 

Boyd went on to say that moving forward, we are at the government’s disposal at any time, should they need our assistance and/or that of the equipment we have secured.

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Arrindell-Doncher heads delegation attending FCCA Cruise Conference

POND ISLAND - Minister of Tourism and Economic Affairs Mellissa Arrindell Doncher will lead a delegation from St. Maarten to the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) Cruise Conference and Trade Show. The event will be held in Merida, Mexico from October 23 to 27 and is the largest cruise conference and trade show in the Caribbean and Latin America.

In the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the Minister views the FCCA conference as “beyond crucial” in being able to re-assure St. Maarten’s partners in the cruise industry that the destination will be ready to provide a terrific experience for cruise passengers.

“The government and Port St. Maarten are very proud to announce to the world that Port St. Maarten will be open for business in November. Port St. Maarten, like the people of St. Maarten, is resilient in the face of natural disasters like hurricanes Irma and Maria. 2017 has put our capabilities and resilience to the test and we intend to pass this test with flying colors,” the Minister said.

“St. Maarten is a successful cruise destination because we‘ve listened to the cruise lines and we understand the business. Key to this business is the experience of our visitors who are very important to us. We have worked around the clock to ensure a great experience as we welcome you back to the Friendly island. Our port facilities have been the catalyst for the improvement and development of different areas of the island. We hope that potential cruisers will join us in forging a prosperous future by gracing our shores with their presence,” she added.

The FCCA conference will afford the Minister and her delegation, which includes officials from Port St. Maarten and the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau, the opportunity to interact directly with cruise line decision makers.  It will offer one-on-one meetings, workshops, social functions, a trade show and more focused on gaining insight from and developing business and relationships with some of the industry’s most influential players.

These key players plan to participate in functions like special Trade Show viewings and the Conference’s schedule chock-full of opportunities to develop business and mutual understanding—from a private meeting with Ministers of Tourism to impromptu meetings with stakeholders and mixing and mingling with attendees and exhibitors at the Trade Show and nightly networking events. And a panel comprised of the cruise line brass will participate in a roundtable discussion as part of the Conference’s workshops.

Plus, key cruise executives from numerous sectors—including shore operations, port operations and development, itinerary planning, and purchasing and supply chain—will also attend special Trade Show viewings and networking events; lead workshops focused on understanding and maximizing their cruise tourism business; and even host one-on-one meetings pre-selected by attendees to gain personalized input and product promotion.

Or, as Micky Arison, Chairman, Carnival Corporation & plc, said recently, “The FCCA Cruise Conference & Trade Show puts cruise tourism stakeholders in the middle of the action. From tour operators launching their first tour to destinations building a new port, this is the place where decisions and developments are reached and relationships are made to pave the way for future business.”

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Meeting held with the school managers of the public schools

PHILIPSBURG - On Friday, October 6th, the Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, held a meeting with the school managers of the public schools. The meeting was held to give clarity to the concerns of the school managers and their management, teachers and staff members. Minister Jacobs expressed her sincerest apologies for the misunderstanding to the school managers, teachers, and staff due to lack of proper communication for several reasons.

On September 30th, the Head of Division Public Education met and informed school managers of the new start time. It was decided that the group 7 & 8 students would attend the first three days of school from 8:00am to 12:00pm and from Thursday, October 5th onward when all groups would attend, school would commence from 8:00am until 2:00pm.

The Minister explained why she saw it necessary to start school at 8:00 am, seeing that many homes were still without water and/or electricity and to avoid children being on the road too early especially during this season and to ensure the safety of the younger students utilizing the buses and who were dropped to school from 6:30am.

School managers were also explained that there was no increase in the contact hours, teachers are to be in school from 7:30am until 2:45pm in order to fulfill a 40 per week work schedule, to attend meetings and workshops within that time as needed.

The teaching schedules have not been increased nor extended, as it all falls within the regulations from the Department of Education. An extra 40 minutes has been set aside to accommodate teachers and students to receive a warm meal for lunch during this time in order to meet the need that had been perceived after the passing of Irma.

The lunches will be provided by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, however, as of October 16th, the Red Cross NL has pledged to prepare 4000 meals for teachers and students of the elementary schools. Lunch in elementary Public Schools will be provided from 1:20pm until 2:00pm. The St. Maarten Vocational Training School will be the only public school returning to regular hours of 7:30 until 2:45, due to the contact hours already ending at 2:45pm

Parents may opt not to have their children stay in school, and pick them up at 1:20pm. Students who utilize the busses will have to wait until 2:00pm to leave the school premises.

On September 30th the school bus operators were made aware of the new scheduling via a letter and this information was also shared during the press conference on October 1st.

Miscommunication seems to also have occurred in this area, however, school bus operators are currently fully aware of the change in pick up and drop off times.

Note has also been taken of Windward Island Teacher’s Union (WITU) visits to several schools as well as a request for a meeting on short notice which could not be held. However, a meeting will be scheduled as soon as possible to clarify to the unions how and why decisions were made which may have caused some discontent among teaching staff as well as management. 

Minister Jacobs thanks all teachers for their continued dedication to education and the students they serve and continues to pledge to assist in any way possible to make this difficult period as pleasant as possible under the circumstances.

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WINAIR Commences with limited schedule several islands

SIMPSON BAY - WINAIR would like to inform the general public that the national airline will commence a limited flight schedule October 10, 2017.

“Times, Frequencies, Fares and availability are subject to change until ticketing.  Check out the following link for the schedule:https://www.fly-winair.sx/winairs-flight-schedule-commencing-october-10-10.html

Be advised that check in time is 90 minutes before scheduled departure time.

“Due to the severe damages to our offices WINAIR is diligently working to open sales and reservations offices. The location and phone numbers will be published soon!

“For ticket purchase or more information visit your favorite travel agency, or book online on our website www.fly-winair.sx,” the airline said in a press release on Monday.

 

 
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Prime Minister William Marlin Constitution Day 2017 Address

POND ISLAND – Prime Minister William Marlin on Sunday released his Constitution Day 2017 address.

“People of St. Maarten, a little over a month ago, we were struck by the most powerful hurricane ever recorded. We are all privileged by the grace of God to have survived that catastrophic storm which was quickly followed by another terrifying one, Maria.

“We all know what transpired in the aftermath of those monstrous hurricanes and the heroic efforts of our people to pick up the pieces, dust themselves off and move on as best as they can under incredible conditions.

“In the midst of this unprecedented disaster we are called to reflect today on our Constitution, which is the compilation of the fundamental organic laws that governs our country. We celebrate today the seventh anniversary of that document that sealed irrevocably the status of Country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

“Let me stress that I know of no country in the world – sovereign or in any form of constitutional relationship with another, that got everything right within the first seven years of its existence.

“To expect St. Maarten to be the exception is simply unfair. And to take advantage of our misfortune of being knocked down by a super Category 5 hurricane, with two other vicious storms in its trail in quick succession in a matter of weeks to link reconstruction aid to other issues is to unnecessarily politicize a catastrophe like Irma as if we on St. Maarten brought the hurricane on ourselves.

“This is rather unfortunate. But let me state categorically here and now that those who have begun to float the idea of rolling back the autonomous status which we are marking today are in La-la-la land; they have a determined St. Maarten people to deal with.  The principles upon which our Constitution is based are irreversible and non-negotiable. Only through the expressed will of the people of St. Maarten can any changes be made to our current constitutional status.

“Our constitution is perhaps the most progressive in the Kingdom, with provisions such as the Constitutional Court which none of the three other constituent countries within the Kingdom has. The guiding principles of our Constitution are summarized in its Preamble. It starts with We, the People of Sint Maarten acknowledging the Almighty God as the source of our core values.

“It further states that we are resolved to work together with our partners in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, with our neighbors in French St. Martin and with all peoples of the world on the basis of freedom, equality, peaceful co-existence and international solidarity. Partnership can only be meaningful when it is based on equality, respect, and mutual benefits.

“We firmly believe that nobody – no matter how well-meaning – knows what is best for the St. Maarten people than the people of St. Maarten themselves. We are grateful for all the help and assistance we have received so far from the Kingdom government and from our brothers and sisters in Aruba and Curacao, the wider Caribbean and from the United States and the world at large. This is what international solidarity is all about. We are a people that believe firmly in the principle of democracy, the rule of law, the principle of the separation of powers, the dignity and value of every individual human being and in the universal and fundamental rights and freedoms of all persons.

“All these principles and beliefs have been put to the most severe test imaginable in this last month since the tragedy of the historic proportions of Irma and Maria. As in every disaster, these devastating storms brought out the best in us, and unfortunately also the worst in a few of us. The law is taking its due course as it relates to the latter group.

“However, the real story in these dark days is the legendary resilience of our people who once again have shown the world that not even the most powerful hurricane in history can knock us out. In less than a month, electricity and water has been restored to about half of the island; schools have reopened, gasoline is being pumped at almost all the gas stations without rationing; banks are open again, radio stations are back on the air, and our airport is set to welcome back commercial flights on the actual anniversary of 10-10-10.

“Our main roads have been cleared of the monumental debris the hurricanes left behind and life has returned to a level of normalcy in several of our districts that it became possible for us to lift the curfew completely and discontinue the state of emergency imposed after the passage of Hurricane Irma. Take a walk along Backstreet and you’ll see that business is steadily coming back while most of the supermarkets and neighborhood grocery stores and many restaurants are serving their customers as if what struck us was just a tropical wave.

“By whatever yardstick you want to measure it, we are basically open for business in what some might call a miraculous way, a mere four weeks after the whole world saw images of a Paradise completely in ruins. This was possible because of the never-say-die spirit of our people.

Everyone swung into action, the Police men, nurses, doctors, utility workers, community councils, truckers, civil servants, young and not so young, without waiting on the authorities.

“Of course, God has been with us through it all, with Nature smiling on us by very quickly restoring a fresh, lush and beautiful green over our mountains that were laid bare by the storm’s and allowing trees and plants that were stripped naked to sprout leaves again.

It is as if Nature wants to underscore that part of the Preamble to our Constitution that states that we as a people are resolved to provide for the continuing preservation of Nature and the environment. If that is not a miracle then what is? All of this does not mean that we are where we want to be or that we're back to Paradise again. Far from it.

“There is a lot of work ahead of us. We have to rebuild our economy. We have lost about two-thirds of our hotel inventory.  Housing will be a serious challenge as so many roofs and residential and business properties have been totally destroyed. The environment itself will require special attention, even though some of our beaches have been declared safe to swim in.

“Certainly, unemployment will also be a formidable challenge. Addressing these and other issues unleashed by the onslaught of Irma and Maria will require a massive infusion of funds.

“Our National Recovery Plan is being finalized as we speak and I am sure these and other pertinent matters will be taken up in the plan. I know we have hardly had the time to mourn the lives we lost in the storm. I pray that their souls may rest in peace and that the families and loved ones they left behind would find the strength to bear their loss.

“Now more than ever before we need all hands-on deck and all minds in a positive mode as we embark on the rebuilding of our island together. Of course, we know that we won’t be able to do it alone: we certainly need help, genuine help from within and without the Kingdom.  But we will not permit anyone to exploit our tragedy to bring in Trojan horses while holding our people to a much higher standard than anyone else in the world.

“Could we have done things better? Of course! But this is a country that is only seven years old, not centuries old and we should be given the time, space and goodwill to manage a crisis brought about by a natural disaster not of our own making but that may have more to do with the Carbon imprints of some of those criticizing us today. Our government remains open and accessible as our Constitution prescribes and we will continue to uphold and respect the spirit and the letter of said Constitution.

“Finally, on a day like this, I call on all the people of St. Maarten to join hands together in rebuilding a better, stronger, smarter and more prosperous island for ourselves, and for future generations. We have done it before and with God on our side, we will do it again.

God bless you and your respective families. God bless our beloved country, St. Maarten.”

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Dominicans fleeing hurricane stricken islands

SINT MAARTEN/DOMINICAN REPUBLIC – “The number of Dominicans arriving from the various Caribbean islands hit by hurricanes Irma and Maria is still considerably increasing,” one daily media report stated.

“Most of the Dominicans are arriving from Saint Martin, Dominica, Tortola and Puerto Rico, where there are still tens of thousands of Dominicans who lost all their belongings from the two powerful storms.

“Once they arrive at Las Americas Airport, many of the locals, especially women of different ages “thank God” they’re alive despite having lost it all.

“I am here in my country, thank God that although I arrive empty handed, I have life and faith to continue fighting for my family,” said Diego Mendoza, who arrived from Saint Martin via Puerto Rico.

“He said there are hundreds of Dominicans in Saint Martin who want to return “in any manner,” many of them living in dire straits, begging for help from the government headed by Danilo Medina.

“The situation of our brothers is painful, they are men, women and children who are suffering calamities because they were left without anything, after the passage of the hurricanes Irma and Maria, by Saint Martin and other islands.”

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EPIC continues restoration project – Focus on education

PHILIPSBURG - Earlier this summer, Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) Foundation began a project to plant native trees at three different locations around St. Maarten (Cay Bay, Sentry Hill and Little Key).

Before Hurricane Irma, assessments were conducted to better understand what native plants need to be introduced at each site to increase biodiversity and steps were made to source the plants. The passage of Hurricane Irma has delayed restoration efforts. However, EPIC is now determined to resume the project and plant native trees that are needed now more than ever!

Although the main action of the project is to introduce native trees and increase biodiversity, the focus is on education. A week before the passing of Irma, EPIC reached out to schools to introduce a series of environmental presentations and excursions regarding the importance of biodiversity; many schools had shown great interest.

With numerous schools resuming classes, EPIC is offering these activities again. The presentations will also provide an update on the status of the tree planting and can be combined with hikes through the restoration sites and other natural areas. 

EPIC offers a variety of presentations and hikes free of charge, suitable for people of all ages including members of schools, churches, community groups or business teams. EPIC is also looking for a group of dedicated volunteers to be involved in a citizen-science portion of the project that involves the planting and maintenance of the new trees.

This would be ideal for a school group that can dedicate themselves to visit the sites once a week or every other week. This can also be used towards community service hours. To sign up as an EPIC volunteer, surf over to: https://epicislands.charityproud.org/VolunteerRegistration/Index/78.

This project, “Restoration of Key Biodiversity Areas of St. Maarten”, is supported by the BEST 2.0 Programme funded by the European Union. For more information or to get involved and organize a presentation/hike, please contact EPIC’s Project Coordinator, Kippy Gilders, at +1 (721) 524-4420 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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UP MP Leonard seeks clarity from Prime Minister about Cable TV Layoffs

PHILIPSBURG – United People’s Party (UP) Member of Parliament (MP) Tamara Leonard has written a letter dated October 6, 2017 to the Prime Minister William Marlin via the President of Parliament seek information about employees of St. Maarten Cable TV.

“St. Maarten is in a dire economic state due to Hurricane Irma.  This is no time to add more uncertainty in our community, and more importantly an increase in unemployment,” part of the letter reads.

“After hearing the plight of the workers at St. Maarten Cable TV, a company acquired by St. Maarten Telephone Group of Companies TelEm, I am prompted to call on the Prime Minister as Shareholder Representative to preserve the 30 or more jobs at the company.  I also urge him to work with the management of TelEm to keep Cable TV as is and operational for another year.  I am certain the Prime Minister is aware of the planned layoffs.  However, for good order sake, the following are some questions for the Prime Minister:

“Is he aware of the planned layoffs at Cable TV?  If yes, has government call on TelEm to revisit the layoffs in light of the recent devastating hurricane?  Can it be confirmed that TelEm, by extension, government intends to ultimately layoff all of the staff and rehire individuals on new contracts at the loss of accumulated benefits for Cable TV?

“How does TelEm, by extension, government plan to tackle the payment of pension to employees of Cable TV whom do not have pension plan, and will be left to fend for themselves if laid off?  Was a redundancy planned to establish showing how lay off will take place, and how those jobs will be absorbed by TelEm employees?  If yes, provide a copy of plan.  If no, why not?  What hurdles are there to keeping the employees on for another year?”

MP Tamara added, “The situation at Cable TV should be taken from the human aspect.  Dismissals will not affect the employees alone, but their families as well.  Moreover, every family now more than ever is dependent on government action to boost the damaged economy.  Inaction could bring with it ever more hardship on top of that from Irma.”    

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