CASTRIES, St Lucia -- Many territories in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) have intensified efforts to develop their maritime sector, given the enormous economic potential of the expanding luxury yachting sector. At the regional level, the OECS Commission has also spared no effort in making the yachting sector a priority on the Tourism Work Programme with the establishment of a Yachting Committee, about five years ago, and the coordination of joint promotion of the yachting sector at International Boat Shows.
At the national level, there have also been, in recent years, considerable marine infrastructural improvements. One of the most recent developments in this regard is the Christophe Harbour Marina in St Kitts and Nevis, which officially opened in 2015.
Christophe Harbour promotes its facility as providing elite luxury yachting services and world class amenities. The marina, which was developed by a super yacht owner, represents a $100 million infrastructure investment that establishes St Kitts and Nevis as a major super yacht home port. The first phase of the marina includes 24 alongside 45 metre to 67 metre berths that offer freehold berth ownership opportunities and can accommodate for 25.9 metre to 91.4 metre yachts. When completed, the luxury marina development will include a shore side marina village with hotels, restaurants and boutiques.
Last year, super yacht traffic increased by 60% in St Kitts and Nevis. The twin island state also accommodated 134 yachts of more than 100ft in length. These numbers were consistent with the anticipated 20 percent year-over-year growth of the super yacht industry in the federation.
As investment in the maritime sector expands, the need for more skilled personnel to service the sector also increases. On October 26, Christophe Harbour held a job fair, in an effort to recruit persons for employment in the maritime sector. Available positions included marina dockhands; marina maintenance engineers; and marina guest services. Such specialized skills are deemed to be lacking in the region.
The OECS Eastern Caribbean Institute of Tourism (ECIT) is designed to address these skill-gaps in the region. ECIT is conceptualised as an integrated system, characterised by centres of specialisation that operate in hospitality training institutes in each of the OECS member states.
“Each member state of the OECS will specialise in a niche area in tourism that reflects the respective comparative advantage of each destination,” OECS tourism programme officer, Lorraine Nicholas, said.
“The British Virgin Islands deemed to be the ‘sailing capital of the world’ will specialize in marine management, boat repairs and maintenance whilst St Vincent and the Grenadines, another of the region’s well-known sailing destinations will offer the specialisation of marine and coastal tourism. The ECIT is definitely well-poised to enhance the availability of skills in the region’s maritime sector,” Nicholas added.