After months of negotiations between the St. Maarten Marine Trade Association (SMMTA) and the St. Maarten Harbor Authority, bridge and mooring fees have been reduced for yachts 8-18m (26.4 – 59.5ft) in length. The reduction was welcomed by the marine industry who report a rapid and almost devastating decline in arrivals, and a major drop in business activities since fees were introduced.
"This reduction is very important. It's only for boats under eighteen meters, but we've lost sixty-five to seventy-five per cent of our cruising class over the last two years, and this is a good start to getting them back," said Kass Haliday-Johnson, President of the SMMTA.
In a press release, the SMMTA thanked Mr. Mark Mingo, Chief Executive Officer of the St. Maarten Harbor Group of Companies and his management team, along with Mr. Jeff Boyd, Managing Director of MMC Consulting Services. The release said that their co-operation and understanding throughout months of discussions had culminated in a final and successful meeting on September 15, 2010.
Mingo had stated in December, 2010, when the Simpson Bay Lagoon Authority Corporation (SLAC) was moved to St. Maarten Harbor Group of Companies, that fees and the financial management of SLAC and its assets, was one of their first priorities and would be addressed within the year. That has now come to pass. However, is it too little too late?
"Obviously, it didn't go far enough," said Haliday-Johnson. "We've lost a big sector of the market in the 100 to120-foot boats and that needs to be addressed soon. But right now to get this for the cruising boats was very important."
According to the SMMTA, negotiations with the Harbor Holding Group are ongoing, with both sides working to improve the growth and health of St. Maarten's Marine sector. This is good news for visiting yachts as further reductions in bridge and mooring fees come under discussion.
Effective January 1, 2011, fees for vessels in the categories eight to eighteen meters will change as follows: A thirty per cent reduction in bridge fee rates; and a rebate of two free weeks out of every eight consecutive weeks spent in St. Maarten.
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