By Mark Laporte
Working with selected cruise companies
We might consider making Port Castries an embarkation point for cruise ships, with Vigie being the entry point for cruise passengers, including tourists from the other islands and Africa. Although this may not be the best of options, with reference to the current tourist arrangement because of the crisis, as well as cruise companies’ own agenda, it can provide some room to maneuver, which would allow us to get additional long term stable business to help buttress Vigie, for we know that the cruise business is not stable.
Let’s marry our seaport operations with Vigie airport. For example we might try to develop a program that gives cruise passengers the option of spending a few days on St Lucia before or after enjoying their cruise. This would help provide business for our small, medium and large locally owned hotels.
Second, some cargo transiting the Panama Canal and the Caribbean can be offloaded at the Castries port trans-shipment point. LIAT Cargo can then be the carrier for some goods from Port Castries to other island destinations via George F.L. Charles airport. This would also provide work for our local truckers who would have to haul goods to Vigie. So we don’t have enough warehouse space at Vigie? Let’s build more warehouses. That opens up more employment opportunities and increases the asset value of Vigie, which in turn will have a positive impact on Vigie’s balance sheet.
Right here at home, maybe one of our St Lucian companies, for example, DuBoulay’s Bottling may consider expanding into the neighbouring islands. That could create opportunities and flights for LIAT Cargo via Vigie airport.
So some might say this won’t work. Well, work on it first. Let’s make it produce. Sit down under some mango tree somewhere and use these ideas to generate more ideas on your own. For that is the game: we have to make it on our own. And I dare say with conviction we have the ability to do this. I strongly discourage us listening to some slick talking North American, sitting in some fancy restaurant, trying to tell us how his/her ideas will be of benefit to our bottom line.
We know that the world economy has changed; the Western decline means the rise of Asia. This is simple physics: up and down, ying and yang, good and evil… call it what you want, it is a basic law of physics… action and reaction; and at the same time the economic crisis is geared and engineered to produce a certain kind of reaction from us. We violate that. We don’t respond as they expect. We reverse the action. Even their president made the following statement which I repeat verbatim here as he said of the American economy: “We as a nation must stop lurching from one manufactured crisis to another.” He knows that the crisis is engineered, and he now realizes that it is counterproductive to the US. Too late for them. We must save ourselves.
Now let’s expand on these ideas somewhat. Earlier in this piece it is mentioned that we might not need to do anything, in the sense of developing our ambience. The ambience is already there.
So why would anyone want to buy or lease a failing enterprise? What might our surroundings have that could turn a failing venture into a successful one? Take for, example, Cuba. It has been hindered by economic sanctions for so long yet those very sanctions provided the opportunity for Cuba to develop its medical sector. What do we have that we can develop? We can also consider the following:
A newspaper report entitled: “Douglas Westwood: Golden Triangle to dominate expenditure over five years
” stated that there will be substantial investments in an area defined by the Gulf of Mexico to the coast of Southern Brazil and West Africa off the coast of oil rich Nigeria. The report continued: “Despite the delays caused by nations’ local content requirements and geopolitical disputes, significant investment will occur in the golden triangle
…” (Emphasis mine). As if to underscore that, Caribbean News Now, in its November 21, 2012, edition, carried the following article: BP discovers 1 trillion cubic feet of gas offshore Trinidad
, which follows a previous find in 2008 that was reported in Gas and Oil Connections under the headline: Petro-Canada discovers gas deposit offshore Trinidad
The above map op cit
offshoreenergytoday.com shows that the triangle includes parts of Brazil, including the capital Brasilia, as well as Rio de Janeiro, along with many cities on Brazil’s east coast. St Lucia, as well as the Eastern Caribbean, is situated at the north-eastern end of this golden triangle. What does that have to do with our Vigie airport and its future? Offshore oil activity would necessitate some onshore ancillary operations that would necessitate the use of an airport. Let us add to that the present tourist industry and we see that the Caribbean is a BIG revenue earner. Could this be an opportunity for Vigie Airport? Two news items on Caribbean News Now seem to substantiate the above. The first is Cubans to visit Bahamas for oil drilling talks
; and, second, British company looking for new oil exploration opportunities in Guyana
Offshore oil and gas exploration would require some type of ground transportation, part of which would be airline related. For example, how might Vigie, as LIAT’s southern hub, facilitate Trinidad’s oil and natural gas enterprise? Transportation is a major factor to and from, for example, the oil storage facility at Cul de Sac Bay. Could that facility be expanded to store natural gas and what would that have to do with Vigie? For example, technical personnel would need to fly in and out to work at oil storage facility. No matter how little, it is revenue that builds up over time. Nation building is a slow process; but if we have a good plan and follow it, at the same time being vigilant not to allow some idiot slick resource grabber to divert us, then we stand a chance.
So you see there are ways to make Vigie profitable. As the above map of St Lucia shows, Vigie airport is flanked by three sea ports: Castries port; Rodney Bay, a potential port for inter island ferry service, fishing and yachts; as well as Grande Cul de Sac Bay, a oil and potential natural gas storage facility. Surely there would be some need for airline transportation in and out of Vigie to service those three ports? Can we see why external forces would want us erroneously to see Vigie airport, as well as all our air and sea ports, as unprofitable? Can we see why they would temporarily remove their services, just as occurred on St Croix and its oil refinery, so that the resultant pressure would lead to some reflex response that would lead us to take careless and costly actions?
One other thought that comes to mind is that the cruise industry may have an eye on our locally owned hotels, with a view of taking them for themselves. We need to think about those things, if we are not thinking about them already. They can enable that impression by first removing their airline services on which Vigie partly depends in order to establish that illusion of unprofitability, so that, if we shall have sold it (let’s hope we do not), then suddenly the aborted transportation would be restored. We need to bear in mind that some airlines are presently expanding into the Caribbean. And it is those same airlines that withdrew services from Vigie that have now resurfaced, merged with other airline companies that are presently increasing their Caribbean routes.
We must understand the thinking of those people and we must move to turn the tables on them, sending back to them what they plan to do to us. As one of our patois sayings states, Ou ka tournier sa lanvere
, meaning: You turn a shirt inside out. So we use the principle to reverse what they intend for us. It’s high time you see some profitability.
It’s high time we see some profitability for our endeavours and stop allowing foreigners to fleece us!
Previous: Part 3
Next: St Lucia: A Transit Point
Mark Laporte is a St Lucian writer and agriculturist, and a former teacher. He researches and develops topics of interest whether or not he publishes them.