Need for New STT Pier Questioned

A cruise ship berths at the WICO dock on St. Thomas in 2020. (Shutterstock)

Will a third cruise ship pier in Charlotte Amalie harbor enhance the beauty of the harbor and be an economic boom to the downtown? Or will the dock wreck the beauty of the harbor and crowd downtown with tourists on already crowded cruise ship days? There are differences of opinion.

Dorothy Maguire Isaacs, a longtime opponent of the proposed pier, has been writing letters in opposition to the pier for over five years. She told the Source Monday that she will not stop “yelling and screaming” until the project is dropped.

Anthony Ottley, CEO of the West Indian Company Ltd., told the Source Tuesday that WICO is “bullish” on the prospect of having more berthing spaces for cruise ships in the harbor. As for destroying the beauty of the harbor, he points to the recent Veterans Drive project on St. Thomas as an example. He said many residents opposed it, saying it would destroy the character of the town, but now most of them saw the result as “absolutely beautiful.”

Ottley said he did not want to get into a back-and-forth with Isaacs, whom he respects. He said WICO, which is owned by the government, is depending on the administration to see how and if the pier is developed.

In a candidate questionnaire: Do you support an additional cruise ship dock in St. Thomas Harbor? Why or why not? Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. responded, “Yes, we support the addition of berths in St. Thomas. Where that additional berth goes will be in Crown Bay and not as originally planned. We are in constant competition for passengers and the experts believe that cruise travel is going to become even more popular. High aviation rates driven by high fuel costs and a lack of pilots are not going away any time soon. People will be looking for inclusive vacation packages like cruises and we must be proactive in ways to accommodate these larger ships.”

To the same question, the Vialet-Sarauw Administration responded, “The Vialet-Sarauw Administration does not support an additional cruise ship dock in St. Thomas Harbor. St. Thomas is renowned throughout the world for the beauty of our harbor. Not only will a new dock destroy the aesthetic beauty of the harbor, it would mostly likely only be used during our high season. Our Administration will instead focus on completing the dredging of the St. Thomas Harbor to increase ship traffic and the safety of cruise ships entering St. Thomas.”

St. Thomas resident Sherrie Davis believes Isaacs’s stand on the pier is costing her a position on the Public Finance Authority Board. Isaac’s term expired in the middle of October; she has not been reappointed but only asked to stay on until a successor is found.

Davis says the pier is a big issue for her and should be getting more coverage as the election nears. She asked in a letter to the editor, “Do the people want to fill in more of our beautiful harbor and pour a giant pier of concrete that sticks out like a sore thumb to accommodate two more monster ships full of thousands more tourists?”

Isaacs told the Source more berths are not the answer. She says the catering to cruise lines must stop. She says instead of all the cruise ships making their stops on St. Thomas on Tuesdays and Wednesdays they need to space their stops to come more often on off-days. Most cruise ships depart Florida during the weekend and early week arrivals on St. Thomas are more convenient for the cruise lines.

Isaacs also questions what the purpose of more mega cruise ships would be flooding the island on prime days with almost as many tourists as the population of the island (50,000).

When the Source asked Ottley what the optimum number of cruise ship passengers would be arriving in the port, he said the number was a difficult number to come up with. He said with cruise ships adding more attractions and shopping on board the ship, and the changing demographic of aging cruisers, no one knows how many passengers will even depart the ship.

Isaacs says the territory needs to focus more on getting hotels and long-term visitors who spend more money on the islands.