St. Kitts Cruise Ship Docking Brouhaha

Basseterre, St. Kitts – Nevis
February 21, 2008 (CUOPM)

Chairman of the St. Christopher Air and Sea Ports Authority (SCASPA), Mr. Linkon Maynard, has taken issue with the reporting by Sun St. Kitts/Nevis on the berthing of cruise liners at Port Zante.

“In the past this newspaper has been guilty of reporting utterly false information concerning various issues affecting the berthing of Cruise Ships at Port Zante. I refer to your various assertions that make reference to the availability of a tug boat at Port Zante Berthing Facility. Despite the fact that there was obviously no creditable substantiation for your assertions, we have noticed that you repeatedly make the same reference and innuendos concerning the capacity and reliability of the Port Berthing services,” said Mr. Maynard in a letter to the Editor, Mr. Timothy Payne.

Mr. Maynard said SCASPA regrets immensely the occasion when any ship is unable to berth, as this represents loss of revenue for all stakeholders including SCASPA itself. “We take all necessary steps within our power to ensure that this is does not happen. The elements, including the wind speed and sea currents are some of the factors over which we have no control. In collaboration with all stakeholders SCASPA weighs all considerations before these decisions are taken,” he pointed out.

He noted that Sun St. Kitts/Nevis in its front page story on Thursday 13th February claimed that it was reliably informed that the cruise ships could not leave the berth on time because of the fact that there was no tug.”

“This was utterly false. The pilots and the ship captain who are responsible for the berthing of the ship confirmed that winds up to 40 knots were experienced during that evening making it extremely risky to attempt dis-berthing. Your newspaper never sought the correct information from the relevant personnel and you proceeded to mislead the public,” wrote Maynard.

He also noted that on Monday 19th February, when because of unseasonable high winds (35 miles per hour and over) at the Port Zante berthing facility, the Crown Princess was unable to berth, a press conference was called to educate and enlighten the stake holders and the general public.

Mr. Maynard said that Akedia Christopher from Sun St. Kitts/Nevis attended the Press Conference along with other members of the media at which the following representatives of the Shipping Agent for the Cruise ship, Delisle Walwyn & Company Ltd; SCASPA, including the CEO and the ship pilots, and an official from the Tourism Authority Board were present.

“Your writer Ms. Christopher, along with the other media personnel present, got the opportunity to ask any question regarding the reasons why the Crown Princess did not berth. The reasons and rationale for the decisions to abort specific berthings were thoroughly explained by the various technical officials at the press conference. None of the reasons included the absence of a tug. In fact the pilots were at pains to explain that the presence of a tug would have made absolutely no difference to the situation. Your reporter heard this,” Mr. Maynard pointed out.

He said he was “therefore amazed and flabbergasted when I read the article in your newspaper in the 19th February edition entitled “No Tourist in Town’.”

“The article includes blatant misinformation (from an unknown “˜reliable’ source) again concerning the absence of a tug resulting in loss of revenue to the port and to tour operators. The article proceeded to quote known political activists in what seem to be an attempt to malign the reputation of the SCASPA and the government. But it gets worse than this Mr. Editor. The newspaper article made absolutely no reference to the press conference which was held at 2:30pm on Monday and which the writer of the article attended. It was as if the conference never took place. We however know that your reporter, the writer of the offending article in question, attended the conference and asked questions at the conference concerning the tug. But the situation gets worse. Your newspaper had the gall to publish/print photographs of the SCASPA and Tourism official taken at the press conference, next to the misleading and dubious article,” the SCASPA Chairman told the Sun St. Kitts/Nevis Editor.

He added that the whole episode calls into question the integrity of Sun St. Kitts/Nevis and its writers.

“I wonder whether you have another agenda rather than to educate and inform the citizens of this country. Your newspaper continues to be a disservice to the country when this type of behavior is propagated by your staff,” said Mr. Maynard, pointing out that “freedom of the press is not freedom to be irresponsible.”

“Freedom of the press is something which was fought for with blood and tears and should not be abused by untrained and malicious writers. What we write and what we say to each other matters,” said Mr. Maynard.

He said SCASPA is hereby requesting a retraction of the offending story and an apology to the SCASPA and Tourism officials and the whole country regarding this unprofessional and callous behavior by Sun St. Kitts/Nevis.

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