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Nature Foundation Hosts First Dutch Kingdom Shark Count

COLE BAY - As part of the Save our Sharks Project the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation organized the very first Kingdom Shark Count in cooperation with several local dive schools including Ocean Explorers, Dive Safaris and Dive Adventures.

The Shark Count was executed simultaneously on all six Dutch Caribbean island and in the Netherlands. The shark count contributes significantly to the Nature Foundation’s scientific research into the abundance and movement patterns of sharks in local waters.

The count also provides insight into the state of our shark population and seasonal and yearly patterns of sharks on valuable coral reefs. Sharks are very important to the health of coral reefs, oceans and fish stock; therefor this research has great value for the Nature Foundation and Sint Maarten.

About 60 scuba divers participated last weekend in order to see and count St Maarten’s shark population. Sharks are very important for tourism, since many divers come to the island to see marine life, with sharks being at the top of that list.

Different research has shown that a shark is worth approximately USD$250,000 over its lifetime to the local economy alive compared to just USD$50, - dollars dead for market price. 

The Kingdom Shark Count was part of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance ‘Save our Sharks’ project funded by the Dutch National Postcode Lottery.

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USM Graduation Count Down, three days to go! Students in the spotlight

POND ISLAND - The belle of the ball this weekend, Alexandria Nathanielle Baly-Stanford, who attended the University of St. Martin (USM) for two years from August 2015, followed one of the other degree paths at the school. She started out her education from 1998 at the Methodist Agogic Centre Early Stimulation, and in 2000 went to MAC, and then to St. Dominic High School in 2008, receiving her High School Diploma in 2013.

She followed the St. Dominic High School International Baccalaureate Program from 2013 to 2015, earning Certificates in Business Management, English Literature, College Mathematics, World History and American History, College Physics, and the Dutch Language.

At USM, she receives the Associates Degree in General Liberal Arts with a focus in Mathematics and Science this year, and is already accepted at the University of the Virgin Islands for August 2017, where she is to obtain the Bachelor of Arts in Social Science with a Minor in Political Science.

Alexandria chose the General Liberal Arts degree with a concentration in Mathematics and Science “to get a good foundation”, as her interests originally lay in Aerospace Engineering. She credits the USM Speech courses with having inspired her change in career choice to International Lawyer, a surprising turn, but primarily due to her discovery that she “love[s] the art of debate”.

She has lofty goals, “intend[ing] to help create the rules and regulations that will govern how we act and settle in Space.”  Having completed numerous academic subjects at USM and participated in the Ambassadors and Debate Competition, among other extracurricular activities, Alexandria has found greater confidence in herself and her abilities.

The most rewarding experiences at USM came from the students and staff, in the friendships and the experiences she has had with them. This has led to her growing as a person in her knowledge and her view of the world. She spoke of her gratefulness for the ways in which USM helped her explore herself and witness amazing moments in “startling new views of our island” and how the school “has unquestionably opened man doors” for her.

As with other students, Alexandria has “had to make several sacrifices to devote time to academics”. She could recall many instances in which she had to forgo extracurricular activities and chances at jobs, decisions aimed at managing her time effectively, which thankfully has resulted in her doing extremely well at USM. Alexandria asserts that she cannot truly regret those decisions “because I have been able to maintain the things that are important to me, [such as] time with family, friends and meeting new people through the work of the USM Ambassador club.”

She graduates with highest honours from the University of St. Martin at the end of this week, at the ceremony along with her fellow classmates. May they see success and positive personal growth in their future endeavours. Alexandria Nathanielle Baly-Stanford, Kharl Oliver, Rochana Richardson and students like them make St. Maarten proud. 

Their most rewarding experience at USM boiled down to accomplishing the end goal and getting their degrees. Kharl receives his BTEC HNC certificate this year, graduating next year. The “time put in was not wasted; all the stress and late nights and assignments were worth it because [he] can see the outcome”. He adds that persevering through a lot of deadlines and a lot of work, and overcoming the desire to give up, is extremely important.

For Rochana, it is very definitely “getting that paper”. She reminisced about “the struggle” and how she learned to stop procrastination, her enemy. The journey they went through as a class, and to see where they are now, made everything more rewarding for her. She also had to overcome the point of wanting to give up, being “persistent and consistent to really get where you have to go, self-motivating”.

The wake-up emails, of which Rochana says she received the harshest, but is very grateful for, helped push them into getting work done. Her internship in Holland, for example, had to be completed before the semester was over, without forgoing other requirements for classes. For both of them, USM “teaches you what’s out there” and gives insight into “a real world and how you cannot slack off”, essentially creating a well-needed “training ground”.

They acknowledge that USM gave them a lot of chances and support over the course of their studies. College life at USM brought a comfortable level of familiarity she had been used to, living on St. Maarten. Kharl has had a different reaction from his stint at the school.

Hospitality being a global industry with a wide range of opportunities and ultimately a lot to do and choose from, he said it provided him “a way in” for finding a specific part for himself in the job market.

Consequently, Kharl talked about his favorite course at USM, Developing Manager, where it was required that an event be put on. Calling it “very stressful”, he praised it for opening his eyes to what he could be dealing with in the future on the job, especially with learning how to deal with people. In the end, it was a course that contributed to career preparation.

Rochana did not have a course that would be her favorite, although she agreed with Kharl about his choice being valuable. For her, it taught about “things to look out for” when starting a business or hotel; it was “very creative” and familiarized her with the atmosphere of “high-class”, and what that could entail. Rochana gave the perspective of a more worldly person who would study at USM, in that her previous experience in the Netherlands had thrown her into a world that greatly helped her understand life better. 

For Rochana, after living and studying in the Netherlands, and enduring degree changes in which a major was dropped, she returned home to well-meaning threats from her parents to find a productive path for her life. At USM, Hospitality and Tourism Management was about to be accredited by BTEC, so she took the advisement of Division Head Wolthuis and completed pre-requisites for that degree programme during her first semester.

Although political science was her original goal in terms of studies, with no lab programme here, she had to be practical. Knowing St. Maarten is a touristy island, hospitality was a competitive, stable industry she wanted to have experience in, and a wise safety net for the future. On the other side of things, Kharl had still been deciding what to do. His hobby lay in the kitchen, and his dream was to become a pastry chef. 

The University of St. Martin will hold the 2017 graduation ceremony for degree students on Saturday, June 24th. Before then, some of their students sat down to discuss their experience at USM, now that they are about to close that chapter of their lives. Among them were Alexandria Nathanielle Baly-Stanford, who graduates summa cum laude, Kharl Oliver, and Rochana Richardson.

PHOTO CUTLINE: Alexandria Nathanielle Baly-Stanford.

usm inside wed

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Port St. Maarten attending Port Management Association of the Caribbean Meeting

PORT ST. MAARTEN – Port St. Maarten has a representative at the 20th Annual General Meeting of the Port Management Association of the Caribbean (PMAC) which is taking place in the Cayman Islands from June 21-23.

On Wednesday, the PMAC opened with an Executive Committee Meeting followed by a Strategic Session and Welcome Reception in the evening.  On Thursday, opening remarks will be delivered by the chairman followed by internal organizational business matters.  On Friday, there will be a number of technical sessions for the delegates attending the 20th Annual PMAC meeting.

Port Management Association of the Caribbean delegates will be reviewing the Strategic Plan 2013-2017 and creating an upcoming plan as it relates to 21st century continuous and sustainable growth for member ports in collaboration with cargo carriers with respect to better insight into growth perspectives.  More emphasis will be placed on discussions related to ‘big data’ for better, decisive and efficient decision-making.

Presentations will be given on the following subjects: Yacht Market Outlook; Correct planning, equipment, and the practice of safety protocols for mitigating the risks to life in ports.

Oil spills in ports – How to plan, prepare, mitigate, and react; From Vessel Traffic Service to Ship Traffic Control. Natural evolution of modern solutions; Improving warehouse operations through automation; Discussion on current trends in ferry service and blue sky vision for Caribbean routes; Dredging and Towing Service at Degrad Des Cannes.

The three-day annual general meeting will conclude with an awards dinner on Friday evening.

Port St. Maarten is looking forward to meeting with port executives and managers across the Caribbean to engage in topics of mutual interests that range from challenges faced by small ports in the Caribbean to best practices that can enhance the Ports operational efficiency and in turn increase growth potential, Port Management said on Wednesday.

“Port St. Maarten is busy preparing to roll out the port community system interconnecting all stakeholders using the already in-house terminal operating system GLS which is provided by IT Partners BV.

“Port St. Maarten has implemented since 2010 the IT Partner GLS system for its Cruise and Cargo activities.  The Port has an extensive real-time database which is nowadays referred to as ‘big data’. Utilization of the port community system will enhance business intelligence and strategic business decisions,” Port St. Maarten Management pointed out.

PMAC conducted its inaugural meeting in Antigua on 26 June 1998, having succeeded the Port Management Association of the Eastern Caribbean established on 16 May 1988.

The main objective of PMAC is to improve the proficiency of member ports and the quality of services offered to their users, specifically through the facilitation of relevant training designed to maximize human resources, and effectively meet the ever-increasing challenges of the global environment.

Moreover, amidst developments within the maritime industry, the Association strives to remain relevant by providing critical services to members, which entail the sharing of experience, information and ideas, as well as advocacy and representation at multilateral levels.

PMAC’s mission is to foster operational and financial efficiency, and to enhance the level of service to the mutual benefit of Caribbean Ports and their stakeholders, through the sharing of experience, training, information and ideas.

Current membership includes port organizations from the following islands, Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Saint Martin, French Guyane, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts & Nevis, Cayman Islands, Sint Maarten, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Turks and Caicos Islands.  There are also a number of associate members.

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BTP hosting Regional ICT Forum in July

PHILIPSBURG - Bureau Telecommunications and Post St. Maarten (BTP) – in collaboration with Internet Society (ISOC) – will be hosting the 3rd Annual Caribbean Peering & Interconnection Forum (CarPIF), to take place in Sonesta Maho Beach Hotel on July 5th and 6th 2017.

The CarPIF is an initiative of the Packet Clearing House (PCH) and the Internet Society, and supported by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) and the Caribbean Network Operators’ Group (CaribNOG).

It’s a highly recognized forum in the region that offers a platform to acquire knowledge on Internet Development, content delivery & peering, Internet Exchange points and the digital infrastructure as a driver for innovation & economic growth in the Caribbean.

During the upcoming forum, several international speakers will give lectures on a large variety of internet topics such as; ICT infrastructure developments, Internet Exchange Points, local connectivity, E-commerce, digital payments and content delivery.

The Director of BTP, Mr. Anthony Carty, stated that it’s of great importance that regional Internet Exchange Points (IXP) - such as Sint Maarten’s OCIX - are being utilized to its full potential.

It allows users to exchange local traffic, and by keeping the internet traffic local, the overall quality will be better, and there will be less latency due to more efficient routing. Another big benefit is that it can also reduce the costs of bandwidth in our region.

IXP’s are instrumental in making the internet faster and cheaper, and we therefore give our full support to forums like CarPIF were these important matters will be discussed.

BTP is encouraging all stakeholders in the ICT industry to participate at the CarPIF Forum.  It offers a great opportunity to network, advance business and secure new opportunities for growth.

The event is free of charge, but registration at BTP is required. More information to be found on www.conntectedcaribbean.com

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Inspectorate conducting more rigorous supervision on drinking water

PHILIPSBURG - Drinking water is an essential substance that sustains lives and therefore must be safe at all times for consumption.  The Inspector General of Public Health, Social Development and Labour, emphasizes the importance of safe drinking water from production to consumer.

Drinking water in St. Maarten is derived from the sea. The process of producing clean and safe drinking water starts when the water is pumped from the sea at three locations in St. Maarten, namely the water plant at Point Blanche, Cay Hill and Cupecoy.

These three-reverse osmosis (intense filtration) water plants are operated by a company called Seven Seas which is specialized in water purification engineering. Once the water is pumped from the sea, this water is filtered under high pressure repeatedly through very specialized filters. This process of water production by filtering is called Reverse Osmosis also abbreviated ‘RO’. 

Once the water has left the three RO-plants, the water is delivered to GEBE. This company distributes the water through a complex distribution storage and network system. However, before the water is distributed for consumption, the water is first pumped to 14 storage tanks on the island and then distributed through pipe lines to different recipients like homes and industries.

The drinking water from both production company “Seven Seas” and distributor GEBE must comply with the legal requirements as laid down in the National Drinking Water Ordinance and the National Decree Containing General Measures on the Quality of Drinking Water. 

Compliance is mainly achieved through surveillance. Surveillance of drinking water quality is simply the continuous and vigilant assessment and review of the safety and acceptability of drinking water from the production and distribution network.

The surveillance takes place through sampling and reporting by three key players, Seven Seas, GEBE and the Inspectorate VSA on behalf of government.  The rules and regulations for each player are clearly stated in the Drinking Water Ordinance and the National Decree Containing General Measures on the Quality of Drinking Water. 

For example, there are 64 legal parameters in the Drinking Water Ordinance to which the production and distribution company must comply with. It’s beyond the scope of this communique to discuss all 64 parameters. However, during surveillance the following 15 parameters of the water are checked daily at any given place and time. The other parameters are checked once a year.

The result of the samples of the 15 parameters give a clear indication of the microbiological (bacteria), physical or aesthetic (pressure, pH etc.), and the chemical (chlorine etc.) quality of the water.

The microbiological parameter indicates the presence or absence of bacterial contamination of the water like coliform bacteria, E. Coli and Legionella. The pH level provides an indication how acidic or alkaline the water is. Water with a pH between7.8 – 8.5 is considered neutral and normal. 

The lower the number the more acidic, the higher the more alkaline the water is. The pH has no direct health effects on consumers; however, a high pH for example can negatively affect the effectiveness of disinfection with chlorine and can also corrode the inner lining of water transport pipes. 

Chemical disinfection of drinking water is a must when producing water. This is necessary in order to prevent and/or kill possible bacteria or other microbes that may be in the water. A chlorine level between 0,3 and 2 mg/L is considered normal in the GEBE reservoirs, but is subdued to many factors like the pH level and the condition of the transport lines (old or new) during transportation to the consumer.  For example, the presence of cement or sand can change the pH of the water.

The law also considers accommodations such as hotels and institutions as hospitals with an internal distribution network a “distributor”. These distributors must also comply with all the requirements set by the aforementioned ordinances and have a surveillance program in place. 

Some of these hotels and institutions also produce their own drinking water and are considered “producers”. They must apply for a permit in order to be exempted from the use of GEBE water and must also comply with all the requirements set by the aforementioned ordinances and have a surveillance program in place.

Based on the fact that there have been positive bacteriological tests (E. Coli and Legionella) spread across the island and low-level measurements of chlorine, the Inspectorate is conducting more intense supervision on both producers and distributors.

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MANAGEMENT & LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT A PRIORITY FOR N.V. GEBE 

PHILIPSBURG - On Monday June 19 & Tuesday June 20, N.V. GEBE’s Executive Management Team, (EMT) completed a two-day accredited Management & Leadership training facilitated by Training Professionals International Firm, (TPI), according to a press release from NV GEBE. 

Over the last months the NV GEBE Managing Board (MB) has been committed to enhancing the performance levels of the EMT.

The Management & Leadership training was customized for NV GEBE and focused on: Understanding the difference between effective Management & Leadership, stressed the importance of effective communication among all NV GEBE managers and highlighted the value of hosting regular meetings to build strong working relationships that will take NV GEBE to the next level.   

Managers were given techniques to apply their new knowledge to support their successful daily functions and job responsibilities. The trainings were given using videos, industry publications, team building exercises and introduced leadership and management approaches used globally. 

The Managing Board stated: When you have managers that want to see the organization improve like our managers, trainings provided by TPI brings added value to our vision and mission.

Ultimately, we want to maintain a positive NV GEBE culture for our entire organization and we know it starts at the top right down through the organization, a Tuesday evening press release from NV GEBE stated. 

NV GEBE knows that when our leadership is strong then our customer relations and service will be strong, the press release concluded.

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Ambulance Department inaugurates two new ambulances

PHILIPSBURG - In the continuing effort to further professionalize the operations of the Ambulance Department of Ministry VSA (Public Health, Social Development and Labour) and to equip our ambulances with the latest Emergency Medical Services (EMS) innovations on St. Maarten, two new fully equipped ambulances with the Power Pro Hydraulic Stretchers & Loading System were commissioned by Minister Emil Lee last week.

“The Ministry of VSA continues to make investments to improve the quality of care delivered to the people of St. Maarten. The upgrade in the ambulance fleet not only better serves the community, but also provides the staff with more modern equipment to aid them in carrying out their duties while providing a more comfortable accommodation for patients.  

“The ambulance personnel over the years have had several concerns related to strained lower back problems as a direct result of lifting patients onto a stretcher. The Power-Pro hydraulic stretcher, which can be lowered to 14 inches, virtually eliminates this risk by letting the system do all the heavy lifting hydraulically,” stated Minister Lee.

In dealing with patients requiring stretcher assistance, ambulance personnel have to lower the stretcher, bend over, lift, carry, twist, and load the patient on to the stretcher. This action often takes place in tight confined spaces where personnel are sometimes unable to employ proper lifting techniques.

They then have to lift a patient-loaded stretcher and reverse the sequence back to the ambulance. On arrival at the ER (emergency room), the ambulance personnel have to remove the patient-loaded stretcher from the ambulance and transfer the patient to a hospital stretcher. This action can be repeated several times throughout the work shift and eventually takes its toll on the body.

Ambulance Department Head drs. Cylred Richardson says that his team deserves the best in innovative technological advancements in EMS in the delivery of quality and professional ambulance care. Management of the Ambulance Department is very pleased with this milestone achievement.

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NATTIONAL INSTITUTE OF ARTS YEAR END RECITAL MAGIC BLUE ON FRIDAY AND SATURDAY

PHILIPSBURG - On Friday June 23 and Saturday June 24 the National Institute of Arts celebrates a mile stone. It’s been five (5) years since two artists training center, Imbali Center for Creative Movement and Motiance Dance School Foundation came together to form an alliance for the arts called the National Institute of Arts. 

That first performance 5 years ago was the first foray into a possibility. A possibility of Artists coming together for a greater good. Would this joining work?   Now 5 years later; the National Institute of Arts is a thriving cultural, artistic training and development center for children teens and adults of all ages teaching some 2000 children in schools weekly and featuring a collective of 25 artists who work together to create a space for arts, artist and art making in a safe nurturing environment. 

In the 5 years NIA has travelled to Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Barth’s, Jamaica, Barbados, St. Kitts, France, Holland New York in it mission to create a platform for artist training for St. Maarten

On Friday June 23 and Saturday June 24 we celebrate that coming together with an end of year recital entitled “Magic Blue”. Just as the sky is blue, wide and infinite. the ocean is deep and profound. This is the expansive creative energy of the power of NIA’s Blue….

Come and experience the magic of NIA. Our signature color is blue and with this recital celebrating our first concert together as Imbali and Motiance and now the National Institute of Arts, we have created a show that celebrates arts in its myriad of forms. Drama, Dance, Circus, Acrobatics, Clowning, and Voice.

Come and experience the creativity, the innovation, the gold medal dancers and gymnast in a show case that will take place Friday June 23 at 7pm and Saturday June 24 at 4pm and 7pm at the L.B. Scott sports Auditorium. Magic Blue

NIA’s Magic Blue is front and center at the L.B. Scotts Sports Auditorium featuring 150 students of the national institute of Arts for the end of year recital. 

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Tourist Bureau hosts active stakeholder session with marketing representatives

PHILIPSBURG - The St. Maarten Tourist Bureau (STB) on Monday hosted an interactive and informative session today for its stakeholders and partners featuring presentations by St. Maarten’s marketing firms Spring O’Brien/MMGY Global, in the North American Market & Aviareps in the Benelux Market.

It was the first time in many years that the STB initiative such an exchange in order for invited stakeholders to hear directly about how the destination is being marketed. The gathering featured a broad cross-section of players in the hospitality field including hoteliers, the Chamber of Commerce, St. Maarten Hospitality & Trade Association, Port of St. Maarten and Princess Juliana International Airport.

Head of the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau Rolando Brison opened the event at Sonesta Great Bay and gave a general update of STB’s marketing efforts for the year thus far. Roy de Ridder of Aviareps then presented his firms results after the first year of promotional activities for St. Maarten in the Benelux market.

De Ridder used the opportunity to explain about the type of Dutch/European traveler that should be targeted, the fact that Aviareps spent most of the past year better acquainting St. Maarten in the Dutch market and will be now looking to capitalize on those efforts and translate them into conversions and bookings.

For the American market, Julie Questa of Spring O’Brien/MMGY Global presented broad examples of how they want to market St. Maarten in the US, focused around a campaign called “Visit the St. Maarten You Don’t Know.”

She explained that while St. Maarten is known, it is not extremely well known, so the firm will play on that aspect and push St. Maarten as a truly unique, new product/destination.

She also stressed to the gathering that just 43% of US citizens are passport holders and how to cater to the travelling American which amounts to about 75 million people. How to specifically target these travelers is important since the figure of 43% renders moot any mass marketing efforts in the US. 

Following the presentations all stakeholders received the opportunity to ask question and offer suggestions and recommendations. Pledging to work together with the STB, these included, but were not limited to:

-       Focus on creating cruise conversion strategies

-       Using the marketing firms to disseminate stakeholder press releases.

-       Place more focus on the low season

-       Closer working relationship between STB, the firms, Harbor and Airport

-       Using new technology such as Pixel to track and measure results

-       Continued support for Trip Advisor and Expedia

-       Tighter targets grouping for more effective marketing spend

-       Better data and research

-       Convincing those travelers (Dutch) going to Curacao to try St. Maarten as an alternative

-       Using travel portals such as booking.com for marketing

-       Ensuring that results can be measured.

Executive Board Member of the SHTA Ricardo Perez said he was: “Very thankful as a stakeholder to have been invited to the presentation.  We commend the initiative since our expertise can assist in directing future policy and direction.

Also, the work done regarding branding can now be put into work by the professionals rather than having to start from scratch.  We look forward to the next session where we can get into more detail planning.”

Brison concluded by thanking all stakeholders for their very active participation in the event, Sonesta Great Bay for hosting and the staff of STB for facilitating. He said cooperation across the board is the only way St. Maarten will remain competitive, mixed with innovation and “outside the box thinking on how we can best position our product for the benefit of all.”

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Island Gems donates computer to St. Martin Sante diabetes association

MARIGOT, St. Martin - Island Gems Charity Foundation continues its mission to assist social and educational-based organisations on both sides of the island with a recent donation of a computer to St. Martin Santé, the diabetes awareness association of the French side.

The computer will be used for, among other tasks, the association’s information forums. The computer was presented to Chantale Thibaut, medical therapeutic coordinator for St. Barth and St. Martin by Island Gems Vice President Anne Karine Fleming.

Island Gems, an all-women group, raises funds for such projects via its annual costume gala. The next gala will be in 2018. 

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