BASSE-TERRE, Guadeloupe, Mar 17, CMC – The chairman of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says he has held talks with Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne regarding the issue involving the Florida-based Carnival Cruise Lines.
Gonsalves, who chaired the special two-day OECS summit here last week, told reporters that the matter between Antigua and Carnival Cruise Lines “was not specifically raised” at the meeting of the sib-regional leaders.
“Though the Prime Minister and myself had a long discussion on the subject,” Gonsalves said, adding that he did not want to make any statement that would prejudice planned talks between the parties.
“But let me ask this question. Are we in such a state of servitude in the Caribbean that the prime minister cannot speak publicly in defence of what he perceives to be his country’s interest without reprisals?
“Unilateral reprisals. Is that where we are now? Is that old fashion colonialism replaced by some new species of neo-colonialism,? Gonsalves asked.
Last weekend, the Antigua and Barbuda government said it was prepared to hold talks with the Carnival Cruise Lines amid a confusion in that country as to whether or not the company had cancelled several schedule calls to the island.
Earlier, Tourism and Investment Minister, Henry Charles “Max” Fernandez, in a statement, said he wanted to condemn “unequivocally a misleading and scare-mongering statement” made by the President of the Antigua and Barbuda Cruise Tourism Association (ABCTA), Nathan Dundas, regarding the cancellation of the cruise ships.
Dundas had said that the cruise line did not give a reason for the cancellation adding “so all four ships booked commencing next season November 2019 to 2020 – Breeze, Magic, Legend and Pride will be going to other ports.
Information Minister Melford Nicholas said the Gaston Browne administration was prepared to meet with the cruise line company at a mutually convenient location wither here or in the United States.
He said in the meantime, both parties have agreed to refrain from making any comments on the situation.
“We felt it necessary to engage them. Despite the hostilities we have continued to engage. We seem them as an important player. Their total brand and all of the ships that are under their control would constitute a significant portion of the existing passengers that come to Antigua under the existing protocol.
“So we do not consider them as being insignificant in the business. So we have continued to engage them. Accordingly based on a conversation that we had again yesterday at cabinet with senior officials we have both agreed to not only stay the hostilities but to have a meeting at a mutually agreeable point.
“It could be in Miami or it could be here in Antigua,” Nicholas said, noting that Carnival Cruise Lines have been complaining about the ports here for decades but have failed to assist in any significant way.
Last month, the Antigua and Barbuda government defended its decision to enter into a multi–million dollar agreement with the London-based Global Ports Holdings (GPH) for the development of the cruise port in the capital.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne said that the US$83 million agreement with GPH would change the landscape of the island.
The GPH, established in 2004, GPH promotes itself on its website as the world’s largest cruise port operator with an established presence in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Asia-Pacific regions, including extensive commercial port operations in Turkey and Montenegro.