Members of the West Indian Co. board of directors are keen to reopen the WICO dock, even as cruise ships are not expected to return to the territory until next year.
On Thursday, the board discussed the possibility of reopening the dock on Dec. 1 as a way to show the cruise ship industry that the Virgin Islands is “open for business” and available to include on upcoming cruise ship itineraries.
However, with the COVID-19 pandemic still not subsiding and a comprehensive health and safety plan for passengers not yet finalized, the board agreed that further steps may be necessary.
As such, the board unanimously voted to reopen the dock on Dec. 1, but only pending compliance with health and safety protocols and a go-ahead from the V.I. government, specifically the V.I. Port Authority and the Tourism and Health departments.
Board members present included Chairman Joseph Boschulte, Jason Charles, Roosevelt David, Pash Daswani, Enrique Rodriguez and Edward Thomas.
As of today, WICO has not received any commitments for sailings to the territory before January.
According to WICO Interim President Anthony Ottley, despite a federal no-sail order, which has docked all cruise ships through Oct. 31, none of the major lines have committed to sail on Nov. 1.
Both Norwegian Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean International have cancelled sailings to the end of November without committing to sail in December.
“In reviewing the berthing requests and schedules submitted, all show to start sailing in January,” Ottley said. “Our final consolidated schedule has 151 WICO calls for the period starting January 2021 to September 2021.”
For comparison, WICO recorded nearly 350 ships in fiscal year 2019, with roughly 1.1 million passengers and an estimated $165 spend rate per person.
Since March, the Virgin Islands has lost close to 325,000 cruise passenger arrivals, delivering a direct blow of roughly $50 million to the local economy.