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MSC breaks ground on Bahamas cruise port

Prime Minister Perry Christie delivered remarks at the Mediterranean Shipping Company cruise port ground breaking ceremony, Ocean Cay, Bimini, 16 January 2017. Read his address here. (Stock photo)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Here follows remarks by Perry Christie, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, at the Mediterranean Shipping Company cruise port ground breaking ceremony, Ocean Cay, Bimini 16 January 2017:


Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome back to The Bahamas Mr. Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman of Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) Cruises, and to once again thank him and the Aponte family for their continued interest in and support of The Bahamas.

Not only does Mr. Vago serve as chairman of cruise operations at MSC, but has been at the helm of the Cruise Line Industry Association’s (CLIA) UK operations as its chairman for the past three years, and the driving force behind this project here at Ocean Cay.

Mediterranean Shipping Company, or MSC, is the fastest growing cruise line in the world; the world’s second largest container liner, and the world’s largest, privately- owned cruise company. It operates around 500 ships with 350 offices and about 65,000 people worldwide, and is positioned for delivery to market of the most ultra-modern, ‘smart’ ships which represent a tangible economic opportunity for cruise destinations in this region.

Demand for cruising has also increased 68% in the last decade. With 33% of cruise market capture, no region is more competitive in cruising than the Caribbean. The growth in cruising is being reflected in product demand and corresponding capital investments as Europe’s shipyards currently have on order 48 superliners for delivery to international cruise lines by 2019 and 75 by the year 2026.

Since the Global Recession of 2008, cruising as a sector of the tourism industry has also consistently outpaced the growth in general leisure travel.

In many ways, therefore, the opportunities in cruising have never been better and the experiences more interesting, more enjoyable, more safe and affordable.

The sector caters to a global customer base of twenty-four million with an average daily passenger spend of $135 dollars and global economic impact of over $120 billion dollars. In 2015, Bahamas cruise expenditures generated $373 million and provided 4,000 direct jobs and $81 million in direct annual wages.

MSC’s recent $5.4 billion investment in fleet expansion will double its current fleet of 12 ships and launch the first of two new prototypes – the MSC Meraviglia, set to debut in the Mediterranean in May, and the MSC Seaside in the Caribbean in December with maximum carrying capacity of 5,000 passengers and 1400 crew.

The MS Seaside will originate its weekly Caribbean service from Port Miami to Nassau and, when completed, Ocean Cay in The Bahamas, along with itineraries to Mexico, Puerto Rico and Jamaica.

In addition to unprecedented levels of investment in the production of next- generation cruise ships, investments in private islands serving as cruise ports is also gaining traction. Under its Heads of Agreement negotiated with the Bahamas Government, MSC will invest over $100 million to transform Ocean Cay into a world class cruise destination with facilities inclusive of a 20-room small hotel, Bahamian shopping village, amphitheatre, restaurants, sporting and entertainment venues, spa, mega-yacht marina & ferry operation and marine reserve in a private port of call.

In so doing, MSC will join a distinctive club of cruise liners that own exclusive private islands serving as dedicated cruise destinations.

The company will also provide facilities for a Police Station, Customs and Immigration terminals and complimentary ferry passage to appointed members of law enforcement.

MSC has made a commitment to Bahamian entrepreneurial development through the offer of financing of construction and equipment in respect of restaurants, retail shops, water sports, entertainment and attractions to be operated by Bahamians.

MSC will also seek to maximize employment for Bahamians in the construction and management of this high-end development and Ocean Cay, once completed, will have a built environment and commercial activity to support the employment of three hundred persons drawn from other Bahamian islands including Bimini, which is now enjoying full employment as the majority of the 600-700 Bahamians employed there and originating from other islands have taken advantage of the opportunities presented in the construction and operation of Resorts World’s Bimini Bay Resort & Casino.

MSC has also committed to establishing a Seafarers Technical School in Freeport, Grand Bahama, and has been working with a Sub-Committee of the Cabinet facilitate planning, infrastructure development, and screening of candidates, with the first 55 recruits to begin training next month in food & beverage, guest services, deck and engineer ratings and entertainment for placement on MSC’s cruise ships. An additional fifty-five (55) recruits per quarter will undergo training for a total of 220 graduates by end of 2017.

MSC is investing similarly in the education of Bahamian Maritime Trainers at its 1300 square foot facility in Freeport and has furnished all of the collaterals for the Maritime Train-the-Trainer Programme.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have no doubt that the cumulative economic impacts of MSC’s increased sailings to Nassau and new itineraries to Ocean Cay – a project that will draw 369,000 passengers annually – will deliver significant, overall economic gains that will bode well for the future of cruise travel to The Bahamas, not only because of the brand reputation and clout of the developer but because we are now living in a time when interest in cruising is at an all-time high; when amenities and on-board experiences are unmatched and when both liner and port activities that promote adventure, educational pursuits and generational travel are driving growth both in our premier industry, tourism, and in the fastest growing sector of that industry, cruising.

Thank you.

Thousands of Bahamians are set to gain employment as the Baha Mar megaresort on Cable Beach gears up ahead of opening later this year. Watch a ZNS Network news report here.

Vacation Express has announced new, direct service to Freeport on Grand Bahama Island from New Orleans. Beginning May 27, 2017, exclusive non-stop flights to Grand Bahama Island will depart weekly from Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport through June 26, 2017 for quick four-night escapes.

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