Dutch Prime Minister Concludes Successful Visit to the Port of St. Maarten

PHOTO CUTLINE: Dutch Prime Minister Hon. Mark Rutte and entourage being given a tour of the Dr. A.C. Wathey Cruise and Cargo Facilities.

CEO Mingo says port moving to the next level

Port of St. Maarten Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Harbour Group of Companies Mark Mingo says he is very pleased with the visit to the Dr. A.C. Wathey Cruise and Cargo Facility by Dutch Prime Minister Hon. Mark Rutte and his delegation of business executives over the weekend.


"The Port of St. Maarten over the years has been nurturing a close working relationship with members of the Dutch Government. Various Ministers and other representatives of Ministries have visited the port and they have all been very impressed with the port operations and facilities that our country has developed. It is my priority to continue to nurture this positive relationship to the benefit of the port and the people of St. Maarten," CEO Mark Mingo said on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Hon. Mark Rutte and his entourage were given a tour of the port facilities before they sat down for a presentation and luncheon that covered past, present and future investments; cruise and cargo developments; Dutch heritage and historic ties and the Dutch Village; port security; real estate; the importance of the marine sector to the economy; and economic challenges.

During the tour emphasis was placed on the joint ventures that have been strategically negotiated with the cruise line partners, and CEO Mingo pointed out how important this was for the port and country.

Mingo also pointed out the strategic visionary investment decisions that were taken to accommodate Future Larger Vessels and now the further expansion plans for Pier II.

With respect to the cargo services and facilities, Mingo addressed how important training is of human resources to operate the cranes at the port, and was top of the agenda in order to continue to provide safe and efficient services where it concerns the off and on-loading of cargo vessels at international performance levels. Developments related to the opening of the Panama Canal were also touched upon.

Prime Minister Rutte was informed that current cargo business activities have stabilized, but the performance needs to be improved. The harbour group is looking at various options, such as additional shipping links, and from an infrastructure perspective, a breakwater and dredging of the cargo basin. The cargo software GLS that was a partnership with a Dutch company, was also explained to the Prime Minister.

The CEO explained to Prime Minister Rutte about the security mechanisms that the port has in place and how that facilitates the processing of passengers from the larger vessels. The Prime Minister was very impressed with how the port handles the large cruise ships and queried about the selling points of the country and why cruise passengers enjoy visiting the destination.

With respect to the harbour group of companies and its internal operations, CEO Mingo explained about the internal checks and balances such as the "umbrella" system that the port utilizes to audit its operations in order to ensure it is in line with good corporate governance.

CEO Mingo also brought into perspective the three Kingdom countries of Aruba, Curacao and St. Maarten where it concerns cruise and cargo movements. Cruise tourism figures for 2012, Aruba 576,578; Curacao 436,068; St. Maarten 1,753,215. For cargo container movements (full imports) in 2012 Aruba 28,864; Curacao 49,877; and St. Maarten 39,300.

The Prime Minister was also informed about the long-term strategic planning in relation to real estate and property needed for future expansions in connection with the economic development of country St. Maarten. Mingo said there must always be room for expansion just as the ports of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Miami have done, adding that the acquisition of strategic properties is part of a strategic vision of the Harbour Group of Companies.

During the discussion about economic challenges, the Dutch Prime Minister was very critical and exchanged ideas on how to deal with challenges. CEO Mingo said they discussed the Central Bank of Curacao and St. Maarten loan where the CEO explained that the Harbour Group saw this as a strategic opportunity to get a loan from the Bank at a lower interest rate which facilitated the Harbour Group of Companies in aligning its position to the benefit of the country.

Mingo added that part of the loan went to cover the construction of the Simpson Bay Lagoon Causeway currently being constructed by a Dutch firm. The investment in the causeway was a strategic decision to safeguard accessibility to the Simpson Bay-Airport-Cupecoy area in the event of a malfunction of the Simpson Bay Bridge; but also to alleviate traffic congestion; and to also serve as a route when the time comes for the Bridge to be replaced.

Political stability was also discussed and the Prime Minister wanted to know if the political situation back in May and June impacted the Harbour Group of Companies in any manner. CEO Mingo stated that the harbour’s strategic partners queried about the situation as well as other investment partners, so political stability is key in any modern democratic country.

Mingo and Rutte were both in agreement that a clear economic policy was necessary; they also discussed monopolies, unfair competition and the non-efficiency of the transportation of goods as potential threats to the Port of St. Maarten.