I ALWAYS KNOW at least a week in advance what I am going to write about in my column.
I always have a variety of subjects to choose from and during the course of the week I keep referring to stickies on my computer screen to make my final decision.
The Pierhead Marina Project was not on my radar. I did not have a sticky about it. It never crossed my mind until I was reading the Monday Nation about the issue of the lack of space for the mega yachts that visited the island for the Christmas holidays.
Once I went back to our archives, despite the number of times I had written about the subject over the years, I was still absolutely astounded by our national penchant for talking a lot, while doing considerably less.
Barbados needs a marina of the type proposed for the Pierhead, and the business the country has lost over the years by not having one confirms this.
Talk of the Pierhead project dates back to the 1990, but for the purpose of this article I will start in 2000 and provide a snapshot of just how much we have talked, with newspaper headlines as our guide:
Oct. 2000: 2 000 Jobs From Pierhead Project: Acting Prime Minister Billie Miller reported 2 000 jobs would be created by the five-year US$120 million project. She did not give a start date, but identified Barbados Tourism Investment Inc, Barbados Shipping Trading and UK investor SeaTech as among the major partners.
Feb. 2001: $40m. City Marina: Divisional chairman of Financial and Property Services with BS John Beale disclosed the $40 million marina segment of the project would start later in the year.
March 2001: 500 Jobs Likely: Sources were quoted as stating 500 jobs were coming in the first phase of the Pierhead project, with work on the marina set to start “in a few months”.
Oct. 2001: Pierhead Project Set For Mid-2002: Beale reported that construction would begin as early as July 2002. The delay, he said, was to allow for upgrading of the project plans.
Aug. 2002: Pier Delay: Project sources said the venture was being tied up in Government red tape, including amendments to the Pierhead Development Act. Apparently, the marina had not been included when the original act was passed in 2000.
Oct. 2002: CDB Loan For Pierhead Project: Story reported BTI was negotiating a US$35 million loan from the Caribbean Development Bank to finance infrastructural work on the project. Minister of Tourism Noel Lynch reported in the House of Assembly that Government would guarantee the loan.
Officials expected to generate major economic activity on land stretching from the Pierhead to Upper Bay Street as a result of the long-mooted Pierhead Marina Project.
June 2003: PIER BOOST: Article reported that the Pierhead Project, then the largest tourism project ever planned, was attracting a long list of investors. Investors from the US were lining up behind local, Caymanian and British entities who wanted a piece of the pie. It was then that it was announced the Barbados Coast Guard was moving to a new base at Spring Garden Highway to free up the area they operated from at the Pierhead.
July 2003: Pierhead Price Hike: BS director and real estate guru Paul Altman disclosed that the project would “take on a new shape” and as a result the price tag would rise. He could not say by how much.
March 2005: Pierhead Project Back On Stream: With new British interest joining the project, CEO of BS Anthony King said the parties involved “have agreed on terms upon which we will take the project forward”.
May 2005: PIER PLUS: Sources revealed that after two months of negotiations developers were close to signing a deal with the London-based Le Meridian hotel chain to manage the 200-room hotel that would be an integral part of the marina project. The rush was now on to have the Coast Guard relocated.
Oct. 2005: Pierhead Plans Being Fine-tuned: Having signed with Le Meridian, BS CEO King said all energies were now directed at fine-tuning project plans. He said construction of the hotel could not begin until dredging for the marina was well underway.
Jan. 2007: Pierhead Project Moving Into Next Phase: King said construction of the marina would begin later in the year. Pre-qualification for contractors had already taken place and BTI was expected to award a contract after a “process of evaluation, selection and negotiation”.
Nov. 2007: Pierhead Push: Prime Minister Owen Arthur, speaking at the official opening of CLICO’s new corporate centre, disclosed that Government was prepared to compulsorily acquire property for the Pierhead project if it came to that. Apparently, Government and BS were not seeing eye to eye on some issues and a special ministerial team headed by Deputy Prime Minister Mia Mottley and including Dame Billie, the Attorney General and the Minister of Tourism was formed to get the project moving.
Nov. 2007: Pierhead Claim Is Denied: Dame Billie and Tourism Minister Noel Lynch dismissed claims by Opposition Leader David Thompson that “a deal has already been consummated” for the multimillion-dollar project. Dame Billie said that Government had not selected an investment partner, even though there were a number of prospects.
May 2008: New Plans For Pierhead On Table: BTI announced it was reviewing all plans for the marina project.
Sep. 2009: Pierhead Options Under Wraps: CEO of the BTI, Stuart Layne said: “We are looking at various options but I am not in a position to speak to any particular option at this point in time.”
March 2010: FOUR OUT: Four members of the board of BTI reportedly parted company with the organisation, reportedly following a disagreement over the Pierhead Development Project.
April 2010: ‘Ready To Roll’ On Pierhead Project: Altman called on all involved to get on with the project.
“I speak as somebody who was involved in the Pierhead project and the blueprint for the project is ready to roll and Government should make every effort to convince the developer of this site to just get on with it; just do it,” said the real estate guru.
Sep. 2010: “A MESS”: Former Prime Minister Arthur said Barbadians could find themselves facing increased taxation to pay for the Pierhead marina project, the cost of which he said had risen to more than $626 million. He said a properly conceived project under his administration had been “perverted” by the DLP Government.
$60 million suit
April 2011: Marina A Go: Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler said the project would start in nine months at a cost of $505 million.
April 2011: Legal Loop: Attorney Elliott Mottley QC was retained by UK company Lagan Construction in a $60 million suit against the Government over the contract for the project.
April 2011: Let Us Know: Arthur calls on Government to fully disclose all the details of the Pierhead project, claiming it had become “surrounded by confusion of a scandalous nature”.
Oct. 2011: Probe Call: Arthur calls for a parliamentary investigation into the affairs of the Pierhead project.
Dec. 2011: Firm Files Marina Lawsuit: Lagan Construction files $56 million breach of contract suit in the Barbados High Court.
Feb. 2015: Massy ‘Waiting To See’ On Marina: Massy boss Gervase Warner said his company was virtually in “abeyance, waiting to see what’s going to happen” with the Pierhead project. He said his company had also been frustrated by the uncertainty surrounding the project.
And here we are at the start of 2017, badly in need of a marina and apparently no closer to getting one than we were in the 1990s. So much for talk and action – or, should that be, pride and industry.