Port CEO Mingo Discusses EU Funding and Infrastructure Concerns with Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister

PHOTO CUTLINE: L to R, Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon. Frans Timmermans and Port CEO Mark Mingo.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mark Mingo of the St. Maarten Harbour Group of Companies on Friday mapped out to Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon. Frans Timmermans the concerns of the port authority regarding European Union (EU) funding, interdependence and possible competition from within.

Mingo brought forward the important issue of EU funding and how the mechanism works for Country St. Maarten. "The Minister was very interested in infrastructure and how funding is sourced. You can’t have where the French side of the Island develops with EU funding and the Dutch Side of the Island can only get funding based on commercial loans after feasibility studies have been carried out. Both sides are interdependent, but we have to be realistic when it comes to the development of the main pillars of the Island’s cruise and stay-over tourism sectors.

Mingo told Minister Timmermans that the Harbour needs support and assistance from the Dutch Government Representatives. "I have been asking for years already to look at this situation with EU funding. As Harbor we are basically fighting our competition on an open market which is normal, but when you see neighboring islands including the French side possibly getting EU funding and not getting the same conditions as our US$150 million commercial loan, you ask yourself how is this possible?.

"We don’t want to hold back any developments on the French side, but you can’t talk about interdependence and you want to compete with the developments on the Dutch side. If the French side would get EU funding for a port development project, it is fair to say the Dutch Port should also be able to receive the same funding; we can’t hide behind the technicalities of this process. We need the support of the Dutch Government Representatives here. I am pleased that Minster Timmermans promised he would look into this issue. At the end of the day, the developments on both sides of the Island should complement each other and not compete, which will increase the value of destination St. Maarten/St. Martin," Port CEO Mark Mingo pointed out.

CEO Mark Mingo also informed the Minister in a detail presentation about a number of other matters such as the ports contribution to national development, corporate governance, how it is dealing with threats to the cruise sector, partnerships and the strengthening of ties with the BES islands.

Corporate governance is a key area of port affairs. Information was provided on the state of affairs in which included the checks and balances of its financing/audits and business development (plans) which falls under the "Audit umbrella". A clear explanation was given on topics such as the shareholders return and the annual concession fee of Naf. 5.2 million paid to government.

Mingo further stated that if government is having issues with balancing budgets, the other government own companies should contribute in such a way as well towards the shareholder which is Government in the interests of national development of the country.

The harbor CEO also called for a joint strategic plan with all stakeholders involved to tackle potential threats which can harm "our only product, Tourism." Security and Safety was a point of concern for Minister Timmermans and wanted to know how the safety of cruise passengers is handled. The destination receives over two million tourists annually and from a security perspective it all depends on the spread of the tourists. Mingo outlined in detail the port’s strategic working relationship with the Police, and he would like to see the successful formula used at the Captain Hodge Substation also expanded to the Maho Reef and Cupecoy tourist areas.

Mingo also explained that the Harbour Group of Companies has a strategic partnership with a Dutch Software firm IT Partners to sell its Harbour Software to interested parties in the Caribbean and South America. "In addition to what we do best here, we are also looking for partnerships. IT partner is a company which was a spinoff from UNIPORT, which is a section of the Port of Rotterdam," Mingo explained to Minister Timmermans.

With respect to the BES islands (Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba), Port Executive Mingo said that the Harbour also looks at the links with the BES islands which is still part of the port’s strategic plans to strengthen ties when it comes to connecting via SEA links and enhancing commerce to the BES Islands. Mingo was very contented and happy that Minister Timmermans had a listening ear. "The competition is killing and I need all the support from my Kingdom Partners in the Netherlands," the harbour’s CEO Mark Mingo concluded.