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Landfill Fire: No School on Tuesday for Philipsburg Schools. Evacuation of Pond Island Underway

GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – Due to the fire at a landfill site on Pond Island, the Prime Minister and members of the Council of Ministers continue to assess the situation and based on discussions Monday evening, a number of decisions have been taken.

The decision was taken to have the following schools in the Philipsburg area to remain closed on Tuesday, February 6: Charlotte Brookson Academy; Oranje School; Genevieve DeWeever School - Cycles 1 & 2; Sister Borgia School; St. Joseph Primary School; and Sundial School.  The Minister of Education advises the University of St. Martin to remain closed on Tuesday as a precautionary measure.   

A decision was taken to evacuate the residents and persons in the temporary shelters at the Little League Ball Park and the Festival Village to an alternative location.  The evacuation of these two temporary shelters is taking place Monday evening. 

The Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour is coordinating this evacuation.

Residents that live on Pond Island are strongly advised to evacuate their homes and find alternative shelter with family and/or friends.

The Police and Fire departments will be sending teams through Pond Island residential areas to assess which persons are still in their home, and will encourage them to seek alternative housing.

The Fire Department has indicated during a Monday evening assessment that the fire continues to burn on the landfill. The Ministry of VROMI and the Fire Department have implemented a system of trenching along the perimeter of the fire to prevent further spread of the fire.

Although this method has contained the fire to a certain extent, the massive size of the fire continues to flare up and generate smoke. The Fire Department from the North side of the island continues to render assistance.

The general population is advised to wear nose and mouth mask to avoid the inhalation of the fumes generated from the fire.

In general the Government Building and specific public services will remain closed on Tuesday, February 6; Secretary Generals and Department Heads within the seven ministries were advised to communicate with Civil Servants that are under their management to report to work where necessary and to arrange alternative locations and measures to ensure operations within key services of the Government of Sint Maarten continues.

The Ministry of VSA section Social Services will be available at the Government Administration Building for emergency information for persons living in the Pond Island area.

The Fire Department, continues to advise persons living downwind from the landfill fire, to close windows and doors, especially persons who have a respiratory challenge such as asthma, or shortness of breath; and to pay particular attention to young children and senior citizens.

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Celebrity Cruises returns to the destination with 44 visits in 2018

SINT MAARTEN (PORT ST. MAARTEN) – Celebrity Cruises will be returning to the island on February 6, 2018 with Celebrity Equinox. Port St. Maarten Management is looking forward to the return of Celebrity Cruises to the destination as Royal Caribbean International deploys its full fleet for 2018.  Celebrity will bring more than 119,000 passengers to shores of St. Maarten in 2018.

Celebrity Eclipse will call on February 7 followed by Celebrity Silhouette on February 15.  These three vessels are part of Celebrity’s Solstice Class which are the first in the industry to utilize solar technology.  This class of ship holds anywhere from 2,800 to 3,000 guests.  Celebrity Cruises’ 12 ships offer modern luxury vacations of which five will visit St. marten throughout 2018.

A Port St. Maarten delegation from the Cruise Business Unit has been relentlessly meeting with various cruise line partners over the past five months to provide an update on the progress of current recovery efforts in destination St. Maarten, and this has resulted in the return of the majority of cruise line stakeholders.

The destination is open and has been providing that unique cruise passenger destination experience since early December.  Reports from the cruise lines indicate that cruise passengers are pleased with the destination and their holiday experience on the island.

“The Island has shown the cruise lines how committed we are in assuring great and memorable experiences to passengers as we recover from hurricane Irma damages. The cruise lines expect all of us to step up to the plate and offer the true St. Maarten experience, which we have been doing, and must continue throughout the year.

“Port St. Maarten will continue communicating with all key stakeholders throughout this process to share the feedback with cruise executives. As a destination, we have a great relationship with the cruise industry and will listen to their feedback to assure we maintain our status as a marquee port of call.

“As cruise passengers ‘Rediscover’ St. Maarten, we commend the community and private sector for their efforts thus far, and we must continue the drive to keep pushing,” Port St. Maarten representatives stated on Monday.

Celebrity is one of five cruise brands operated by global cruise vacation company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (NYSE: RCL). For more information, dial 1-800-437-3111, visit www.celebritycruises.com, or call your travel agent.

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Man found dead in Simpson Bay. No signs of foul play

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY) - On Monday at approximately 07.00 a.m. Police, Detectives and paramedics were sent by the Emergency Dispatch to an apartment building located on Peterson Drive in Simpson bay to investigate a case involving a man that was lying on the ground and was not showing any signs of life.

On the scene the investigating officers encountered the lifeless body of the victim. According to a witness the victim is staying on the second floor of the same apartment building.

Another witness stated that the victim had gone out the night before to watch a game at a sports bar. The victim had too much to drink and was quite intoxicated. He could not get up the stairs by himself and was too heavy to help go up the stairs.

The victim was left sitting on the stairs to sober up.  A medical doctor came to the scene and pronounced the death of the victim. It is still unclear what the exact cause of death is at this time and there are no signs of foul play. The investigation is ongoing. (Sint Maarten Police Force)     

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Joint approach taken in registration of reporting agents to combat money laundering and terrorism funding

PHILIPSBURG – In August 2017, the Public Prosecution Service (OM), KPSM (Police Force), RST (Special Police Taskforce) and FIU (Financial Intelligence Unit) Sint Maarten launched a criminal investigation into 13 service providers that do not, or insufficiently, cooperate with their registration with the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), the OM said in a press statement on Monday.

“A number of these service providers have been heard as suspects. These are jewelers, brokers and accountants that have repeatedly been requested by FIU to register. In spite of several requests, they have not complied with the related obligations. Non-financial reporting institutions on Sint Maarten are legally obliged to report unusual transactions to the FIU Sint Maarten.

“These so-called 'gatekeepers' are indispensable in the approach to money laundering and terrorist financing. That is why it is very important that they fulfill their obligations within the framework of the National Ordinance (Landsverordening) on the Reporting of Unusual Transactions (LV MOT) and the National Ordinance Identification for Services (LV ID).

“The criminal investigation that has been initiated will take place within the framework of the "non-reporting project". The goal of this project is that more, timely and better reports of unusual transactions are made at the FIU. In that context, registration of non-financial service providers such as jewelers, brokers and accountants is an extremely important step.

“Part of the registration is the submission of documents showing that the reporting service provider has arranged his company in such a way that the obligations under the National Ordinance on the Reporting of Unusual Transactions (LV MOT) and the National Ordinance on Identification for Services (LV ID) can be met.

“More than a year ago, FIU identified a group of 90 reporting service providers on Sint Maarten that had not yet registered. To accompany these reporting agents in the registration process, the FIU organized information meetings and made numerous writings.

“A trade association has also tried to motivate its members to cooperate with the registration obligation. Unfortunately, a group of 13 service providers proved to be notoriously or incompletely cooperating. After consultation between the Public Prosecutor Office and the FIU, in view of the obvious importance of correct registration, this group has decided to criminalize it research.

“Investigation officers from the KPSM, RST and FIU have also jointly taken up this task. The effect of this action was immediately noticeable for the FIU. During the interrogation, some suspects indicated by investigating officers that they still wanted to comply with their information obligation.

“In addition, several reporting agents, who were not involved in this criminal investigation, spontaneously took action and answered outstanding requests from the FIU. The Public Prosecutor’s Office Sint Maarten has decided that, with regard to the suspects who have cooperated in the criminal investigation, this is limited to a warning.

“This warning is given in the form of a conditional dismissal. This means that no criminal prosecution is instituted when they meet a number of conditions. One of the conditions is the timely delivery of all necessary documents to the FIU. In addition, the suspects must not otherwise commit criminal offenses.

“If the conditions are not met, the summons will still be submitted with the result that the suspect must account for the criminal judge. The criminal investigation will continue with regard to non-cooperating suspects. Reporting unusual transactions and doing customer research remains an important pillar in combating money laundering and terrorism financing.

“In the future, permanent attention will be asked for this subject from the "non-reporter project". For example, in the reconstruction phase after hurricane “Irma” it is crucial that reporting agents such as administration and trust offices report unusual transactions related to construction companies.

“More information about FIU and reporting duty can be found at www.fiu-sxm.net See also the previous press release; FIU Sint Maarten and OM start ‘non-reporting project,’” the OM press statement concludes.

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NYT mentions Sint Maarten in its 52 Places to Visit in 2018

POND ISLAND – The New York Times (NYT) Travel section featured “52 Places to Go in 2018,” as part of a starter kit for escaping into the world, and the Caribbean came in as number four under the banner, “Tourism speeds recovery in a storm-battered part of the world.”

Destination Sint Maarten’s newest tourist attraction was mentioned under the Caribbean, “The new St. Maarten Rockland Estate Eco-Park Rainforest Adventures’ new Rockland Estate Park introduced a zipline to Saint Maarten.”  The section was written by Elaine Glusac.

Acting Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation & Telecommunications (Ministry TEATT) Cornelius de Weever said this publicity was very good for the destination as the country continues to recover from the damage caused by the September 2017 hurricanes.

“We are very pleased that one of our newest attractions which recently opened was mentioned in this prestigious and credible U.S. news source which is read by millions of Americans on the U.S. Eastern seaboard where the majority of Americans who visit the destination comes from.

“As a destination in the recovery phase, but is open for business, we now have the opportunity to build back better our tourism and hospitality infrastructure, and also introduce new attractions for our visitors. 

“Now is the time for entrepreneurs to be innovative and invest in our product as Sint Maarten is rediscovered by our guests in the coming months as a number of resorts come back online,” Minister De Weever said on Sunday.

The NYT has been in existence for more than 162 years and has more than 3.2 million paid print and digital subscribers.  The paper was founded in the early 1800s.

The NYT has been awarded 122 Pulitzer Prizes (PP) and citations, more than any other news organization.  The Pulitzer Prizes, are awarded each year by Colombia University, and the PP is universally regarded as the most prestigious in American journalism.

PHOTO CUTLINE: Acting Minister of TEATT Cornelius de Weever.

Minister Cornelius de Weever

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“Emerald”" in court Sint Maarten on February 6 and 7 about evading income and turnover tax

PHILIPSBURG – Seven owners of one-man businesses on Sint Maarten will appear in the Court of First Instance of Sint Maarten on 6 and 7 February 2018, the Public Prosecution Service (OM) and Anti-Corruption Unit (TBO) said in a joint press release on Sunday.

“It is the ““Emerald-case” regarding evading income and turnover tax. These suspicions are the result of the “Emerald-investigation”, an investigation by the anti-corruption unit (TBO, Team Bestrijding Ondermijning) into fraud and corruption in the port of Sint Maarten.

“It has been found that the companies that are on trial in (in particular) the years 2012-2016 have been paid for approximately 8 million dollars for activities that would have been carried out for the benefit of the Port. These payments were not reported by the companies to the tax authorities. That is punishable by law.

“According to calculations by the tax authorities of Sint Maarten, the country has lost more than 6 million (Antillean) guilders in tax revenue. In addition, the investigation showed strong indications that the activities, for which the companies were paid by the port, were never performed at all, but that false invoices were used.

“The businesses that have been summoned are not being prosecuted for this. But this fraudulent context means that this is not about simple tax evasion. The accused suspects include a member of the Sint Maarten Parliament (MP) and a police officer. A large part of the invoices paid by the port concerned clean and clean-up work.

“The TBO is, in the aftermath of hurricane Irma, focused on corruption and signs of fraud. As is known, the Dutch government has made 7 million euros available for cleaning work on Sint Maarten after Irma; these funds are distributed through the UNDP (Ed United Nations Development Programme).

“With these criminal cases, the Public Prosecution Service also wants to signal that fraud and corruption cannot be tolerated. The “Emerald-investigation” also investigates the main suspects, M.M., CEO of the Port Authority and O.A., owner of the company that provides security in the port. This case is in the meantime being prepared by the TBO. In that context, witnesses have now been heard by the examining magistrate.”

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Ombudsman starts Systemic Investigation regarding Disaster Management Plan and preparations for 2018 hurricane season

PHILIPSBURG - With eyes on the effects, recovery and rebuilding in the wake of the hurricanes of September 2017, and considering that in a short four (4) months’ time the next hurricane season will be upon us, the Ombudsman Dr. Nilda Arduin now gears attention to the preparedness of the country for the 2018 hurricane season.

Considering the aforementioned, the Ombudsman has resolved to conduct a systemic investigation regarding: The state of preparedness of the government of Sint Maarten pursuant to the National Ordinance Disaster Risk Reduction and the Disaster Management Plan. 

Based on the National Ordinance Disaster Risk Reduction (‘Landsverordening Rampenbestrijding: AB 2013, GT no. 7 – AB 2015, no. 9’), a Disaster Management Plan was established by National Decree (‘Rampenplan Sint Maarten: AB 2013,GT no. 150’).

The Disaster Management Plan is an organizational plan, which describes in general terms how to deal with a disaster, or a threatening disaster (e.g. a hurricane), in order to effectively combat the disaster or the major accident and the consequences thereof. The emphasis in the plan is on the administrative, organizational and coordinating elements (in combating a disaster). 

The Disaster Management Plan requires that, for the effective prevention of disasters or serious incidents, preparatory work must be carried out by establishing sub-plans by the ten (10) Emergency Support Function (ESF) groups. On the basis of these sub-plans, the departments, services and institutions must draw up their action plans.

Barring a contingency plan dated October 2014, submitted by the Ministry of VROMI, the request by the Ombudsman for the (updated) sub-plans and action plans have gone unanswered.  

A formal request to the Council of Ministers (COM) for plans of approach, policies/criteria, requirements and selection procedures to provide relief and services to those in need, in particular regarding housing, also did not receive a response.

The lack of response to queries of the Ombudsman as well as Parliament warrants serious concerns, as the next hurricane season starts on 1, June 2018. Reason why the Ombudsman has resolved to initiate the investigation.

The documents regarding this investigation, as well as the other systemic investigations started by the Ombudsman are available on our website: www.ombudsmansxm.com, under the ‘Articles and Presentations’ tab.

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STRANDED SZV PATIENTS IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

PHILIPSBURG - It is a known issue that the discharged Medical Referral patients of SZV, currently in the Dominican Republic are now faced with prolonged stays in the country due to the cancellations of PAWA airline flights.

SZV recognizes the impact of this and our team has since been working actively towards alternatives for its patients currently affected. At the moment a total of 15 persons (patients and companions combined) are pending travel arrangements to return to St. Maarten.

It is a very undesirable situation for all. Together with various parties and stakeholders we are seeking the best and safest means of transport back home for our patients. The process itself requires the necessary time and collaborations to ensure that all legal, compliance and safety regulations are met.  

“One of our options is to charter a plane, we are currently investigating this option to see if it is a viable short-term solution. It is important to share that for this option, we are reliant on the respective authorities, landing rights, suitable aircrafts etc. Our team has been working tirelessly on this situation and we are thankful for the support of our partners thus far. Our discharged patients need to return home to continue their recuperations and such. We know that families need to be reunited and we ask our patients to hold on tight as we continue to work on solutions.” – Mr. Glen A. Carty, Director SZV

Recent flight disruptions impacting the medical travel of SZV patients is that of InselAir. So far, the biggest impact of this has been prolonged delays and last minute flight changes. SZV advises all patients travelling with InselAir to continuously monitor flight change announcements by the airline. Changes in flight plans occur within hours’ notice, SZV asks patients to pay extra attention to this.

Patients abroad seeking to contact SZV with general inquires can do so via www.szv.sx, the Facebook page, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling +1721-546-6782.

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Port St. Maarten & Stakeholders briefs St. Martin Chamber of Commerce about Cargo Operations Post Irma

PORT ST. MAARTEN – Last week Port St. Maarten representatives, and stakeholders – Intermar Group/St. Maarten Shipping and Stevedoring NV President George Pelgrim and CMA CGM Managing Director Liliane Hohl, met with representatives of the French side Chamber of Commerce based on an invitation by its President Jean Arnell, to discuss pre and post Irma cargo flows and operations from the Dr. A.C. Wathey Cruise & Cargo Facility to the French side of the island.

The St. Martin Chamber of Commerce were briefed about Port St. Maarten’s improvement ratings post Irma in particular cargo flow to the French side that would aid in the build back phase of both sides of the island.

Representatives of the chamber were very much pleased with the positive track record and recovery phase of the Port, and commended Port St. Maarten’s steadfast approach in ensuring an efficient flow of cargo as the island embarks upon the rebuilding phase of both North and South. 

The Port St. Maarten presentation highlighted: port position pre and post Irma; operational percentage pre and after the hurricane; target to gain back full operational excellence with clear target dates; the execution of a solid, structured and strategic plan to aid in the reconstruction process;  providing details of Port St. Maarten’s improvement matrix; highlighting the port’s progress bar, in particular, delivery of French side cargo / container gate outs which increased expeditiously since the passing of Irma.

The other stakeholders present also gave crucial or key points to highlight from a stevedore and agent perspective; their current and future plans, and about new key investments currently made to ensure regaining full operational excellence.

CMA-CGM also highlighted what they are doing to ensure efficient and timely deliveries to the French side by steadily alleviating the backlog of containers since post Irma, for more efficient deliveries and working with all business on the French side as pointed out by Arnell particularly looking forward to the 10 week gate out of current block stow containers destined for French St. Martin importers as well as improved communication and collaboration between entities.

The St. Martin Chamber of Commerce were very receptive and thanked port representatives and stakeholders for the objective and open dialogue that will now aid and allow them to inform their respective bodies/the St. Martin Chamber of Commerce Board about the efforts being made by Port St. Maarten and stakeholders involved in a quick return to a state of normalcy as far as Cargo and other operations are concerned.

“The French St. Martin Chamber of Commerce would like to express gratitude to the port officials for receiving us, providing clarity on port operations as well as pre and post Irma performance data. We are satisfied to learn of the new investments and the capacity build up being made by the port and its stakeholders,” Jean Arnell was quoted sharing in the meeting.

Port St. Maarten cargo imports are already seeing positive double digit growth as it relates to cargo volume incoming, with further double digit growth expected as the build back process continues, Port St. Maarten Management said on Friday.

“For the month of January compared to same period in 2017, we have experienced robust 19 % increase on full imports compared to prior years. As such it is paramount that this further translates into efficient and steadfast improvement / repairs to the Port – post Irma, to ensure we meet our service and operational excellence targets as we are steadily on our way to full operational capabilities,” Port St. Maarten Management added.

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Lagoon navigation hazards marked in joint French – Dutch collaboration

SIMPSON BAY - The Lagoon has just been made a safer place to go boating after the successful completion of a joint French and Dutch initiative to identify and mark the sunken hazards to navigation.

The project was initiated by Shrimpys Yacht Support and involved both the French and Dutch Side Sea Rescue Associations, the St. Maarten Marine Trades Association, and Island Water World.  

These organizations all came together to ensure that all known underwater hazards to navigation throughout the lagoon are identified with a bright yellow marker and visible to mariners. 

This is an essential requirement for vessels to transit the lagoon safely without risk of collision with sunken objects. 

Mariners should give clearance and avoid any yellow ball markers such as the one shown in the photo below.

If any additional unmarked hazards are sighted please contact Mike at Shrimpys via VHF channel 10 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or via Facebook.

The project team would like to thank all those who participated in this private initiative, Mike Glatz from Shrimpys for organizing it, and IWW for providing the tackle and markers.   

shta Participants preparing marks

shta Markers

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