The commissioner responsible for economic affairs, Frans Richardson, has met with shipping agents and insurance brokers as part of information gathering sessions with major stakeholders.
Representing the shipping sector at the recent discussions were Intermar’s Carl Hart, Director of Marketing and Robert Heyer. St. Maarten Shipping & Stevedoring N.V. was represented by its president George Pelgrim while Safe Cargo was represented by Kate Lawrence.
Among issues brought forward were how freight costs to the island are fairly comparable with other destinations in the region. Costs are very much dependent on the region where purchases are made.
Commissioner Richardson was informed about a shortage of local specialized-personnel and which in turn contributes to higher operational costs.
At present, connections to the Caribbean are very good with St. Maarten being well-positioned for service to the North-Eastern Caribbean.
Current and future measures to mitigate the existing impact include ongoing negotiations with port facility authorities to use St. Maarten as a cargo transshipment point. An incentive program is also being developed to further attract lines for transshipment activity.
Among the suggestions for short-term & structural solutions in collaboration with government is the development of St. Maarten to become a distribution centre to the Caribbean, for air cargo, coming particularly from the Far-East and other regions.
In meeting with insurance brokers Neil Henderson and Robin Ramrattan, the commissioner was informed that insurance is still considered to be high a priority on the minds of consumers and businesses, notwithstanding the currently economic climate.
Insurance of properties have meanwhile remained stable, given the high level of uncertainty within the global and local economies while premiums have generally become more affordable returning to levels of before 1999.
Commissioner Richardson was informed that there has been an overall 15% decline in policy renewals.
Measures taken or plans to mitigate the current impact include the St. Maarten Brokers Association, SIBA, planning to raise community awareness through marketing and in the process remind and educate the public on insurance products and options.
With regards to the selling of insurance, the insurance brokers sector has suggested that government should act to ensure a level-playing field in the financial services sector.