By anguillian November 13, 2017 12:26 Updated




Port facilities between Anguilla and French St. Martin are far from what they used to be before they were devastated by Hurricane Irma on September 6, but the resumption of the regular ferry service between Blowing Point and Marigot is nevertheless a sign of normalcy.

The recommencement of the service, some 70 days after Irma, was on Monday, November 6, when the Anguilla ferryboat, MV Niki V, the first vessel to be re-certified since the hurricane, travelled between the two ports. The passengers were cleared by security personnel now operating in makeshift facilities on the ground floor of the police station at Blowing Point.
Given the fact that the passenger terminal was destroyed by the hurricane, and was eventually demolished by the Anguilla Air and Sea Ports Authority, there is obviously some inconvenience at the Blowing Point port. It has been arranged for passengers to be accommodated under a tent from where they make their way to inside the security area and then leave through the same door to proceed to the ferry. While it was expected that many persons would have been at the port for the first trip to Marigot, only between 15 and 20 passengers were present to board the ferry. A possible reason was the reported shopping difficulties across the border.

With the resumption of the ferry service, Port Manager, Mr. Dale Rogers, led a team of workers in constructing a ramp, on the seaside of the building, to facilitate arriving passengers. It should be completed in a matter of days.
“We are building a ramp for ease of access for passengers travelling up the four steps with luggage, on wheels, to enter the makeshift arrival lounge,” he explained. “The Air and Sea Ports Authority depends very heavily on the movement of passengers in the Blowing Point Port. After the devastation by Hurricane Irma, we are not seeing the usual number of passengers so our revenues are down. In the meantime, we have a team of maintenance and security personnel assisting with our in-house renovations.
“On average, we have had 1200 passengers passing through the port daily amounting to over 400,000 last year and now, since Hurricane Irma, we are down to a trickle – less than 100 passengers per day (to Dutch St. Maarten). Now, with the start of the ferry service to the French side we are hoping that the numbers will grow to help the Air and Sea Ports Authority with its finances.”
Mr. Rogers said that while the Niki V was the first ferryboat to be re-certified, another boat was re-certified but later developed an engine problem. “At the beginning of next week we are hoping to have three or four other ferries re-certified. Thirteen ferries are registered to travel to the French side – with each having morning and afternoon shifts and rotating every other day. On the Dutch side, we have over thirty charter vessels travelling there.”

Returning to the makeshift facilities, Mr. Rogers stated: “At present we are using the downstairs of what was formerly the police station, but is now the port’s building. The police station, of course, still has an upstairs area at the front, but the port occupies the rest of the building seawards. Downstairs, we have a maintenance store room, two small offices and checking areas for Immigration and Customs. On the outside, we have a tent for passengers waiting to board the ferries. When the boats are ready, the passengers leave the sitting area under the tent, check through security and go straight to the ferries.”

Questioned about the rebuilding of the passenger terminal, Mr. Rogers replied: “It is now time to look at a new plan which will be taking a lot of matters into consideration – since the passing of Hurricane Irma.

“Our plan is to erect a temporary building measuring 30 feet wide by 60 feet long. It will be the arrival lounge which will host Immigration, Customs, Port Security and a checking area. The present area we are using for arrivals will be the departure lounge.”

Meanwhile, the Anguilla Government and the British Government are discussing a new port development project which includes the Blowing Point Port and the Clayton Lloyd International Airport.

By anguillian November 13, 2017 12:26 Updated


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