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Bryan considering harbor dredging projects territory-wide

Posted on July 4, 2022

ST. THOMAS — Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. met with officials of both the West Indian Company Limited and V.I. Port Authority on Thursday to discuss plans for moving forward with harbor dredging projects in Charlotte Amalie and Gallows Bay, Government House announced.

In the statement, released after 6 p.m. on Friday, Bryan “expressed the importance of moving forward with the dredging projects which have been awaiting federal action to keep pace with the cruise industry and its move toward larger vessels.”

The governor, according to the statement, “is considering several financial options to expedite the dredging process in Gallows Bay on St. Croix and the St. Thomas Harbor.”

“This is a vital and strategic step for the Territory’s economic development and to help our small businesses remain prepared to offer the best experience possible for cruise passengers when they visit the industry’s top destination,” Bryan said. “While we still would need approval from the Army Corps of Engineers for the structural portion of the dredging projects, we could significantly speed things up by making the funding available now rather than wait on the federal funding process.”

While the Government House statement did not mention it, the announcement comes following a letter-writing campaign, starting early last month by the India Association of the Virgin Islands, the Havensight Merchant Association, the Chamber of Commerce — both by current president Shaine Gaspard, as well as one signed by him alongside other past presidents, President-elect John Woods, and other board members — calling for the dredging of the harbor to accommodate Oasis-class ships for a much-need economic boost. Austin Nibbs, administrator for the Government Employees’ Retirement System, which owns the Havensight Mall, also wrote a letter in support of dredging. It reiterated a key point the others made, that 21 Oasis-class ships had been turned away from the WICO dock.

The letters were in response to one by Tourism Commissioner Joseph Boschulte, published June 9, that noted “we are developing strategies to dramatically increase port calls by 2023” and “looking forward to the unveiling of a third pier in St. Thomas to accommodate Oasis-class vessels.”

Boschulte, the former and longtime chairperson of the WICO board, did not mention dredging of that harbor. In 2016, the V.I. Cruise Ship Task Force “identified dredging the harbor as a critical infrastructure project that would benefit the V.I. economy immeasurably and guarantee ship calls” Gaspard wrote in a letter published June 14.

Bryan in his statement Friday, said that the dredging project “is critical to deepen the turning basin and mouth of the harbor for access to the WICO dock for the largest cruise ships.”

The WICO dock, according to the news release, can accommodate only one Oasis-class cruise ship, which holds about 6,000 people.

Further it noted that “according to information brought up during the meeting, the dredging of St. Thomas Harbor will increase the economy of scale for the Territory to handle more of the larger ships simultaneously, boosting capacity about 200% to allow up to three Oasis-class ships to dock simultaneously.”

The Gallows Bay dredging project also is crucial to the Bryan-Roach Administrations plans to increase the number of cruise calls to St. Croix and allowing small ships to dock in Christiansted, as well as larger vessels at the Anne Abramson Marine Facility in Frederiksted, according to the release.


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