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Seaport Upgrades Coming In 2024

Plans have the U.S. Virgin Islands cruise and cargo ports getting key upgrades this year. (Photo courtesy of Port Authority)

Dramatic upgrades to Virgin Islands ports are planned for 2024 and 2025, according to the Port Authority.

Both cruise and cargo facilities at St. Thomas’ Crown Bay will see continued redevelopment above and below water, building on work begun in 2023, according to the Authority’s yearend report.

The Port Authority and shipping companies have partnered to get a $21.9 million grant from the U.S. Maritime Administration to reconstruct and modernize Crown Bay cargo facilities. The cargo port will expand to encompass the area once home to Addelita Cancryn Junior High School, which was heavily damaged in the 2017 storms. The Port Authority was putting together preliminary designs for the plan in late 2023 when the report was released.

The Crown Bay cruise terminal and surrounding area are also slated for modernization, while dredging under the existing pier is on a list of future projects, according to the report.

Funding for dredging, as well as plans for a third Crown Bay cruise pier and expansive redevelopment of Crown Bay Center and the entire Crown Bay district, will come in part from a $5 per passenger surcharge for Royal Caribbean Group ships. Royal Caribbean has invested in the ports it uses for decades, sometimes to dramatic ends. In Jamaica, Royal Caribbean helped completely revamp the long-fallow port of Falmouth, dredging the harbor, rebuilding the pier, and reshaping the sleepy town to a bustling cruise port in 2011.

The Army Corps of Engineers is assessing a plan to dredge Charlotte Amalie Harbor around the West Indian Company Dock in January 2025. The expanded turning basin will allow more and larger cruise ships to maneuver in the busy waterway. Once permits are in place, the authority predicts the dredging project will take 15 months. The project has been contentious, bringing to light disagreements between the authority and WICO officials.

In St. Croix, the Army Corps of Engineers is also eyeing a dredging project in Christiansted’s Schooner Bay Channel. This would allow small cruise ships, passenger ferries, and larger luxury vessels into Christiansted. Public commentary on the proposed project starts at a community meeting planned for Jan. 9.

The same sort of agreement with Royal Caribbean as in Crown Bay will send pre-development money to Frederiksted for dredging and infrastructure improvements that would allow larger cruise ships to call. The plan also includes creating new attractions and excursions, as well as improving existing parks and tourism-related infrastructure.

Cruise calls on St. Croix leapt in 2023 from 35 ships carrying just under 60,000 the previous year to 69 ships carrying 177,000 in 2023.

Paving around the new $12.2 million cargo terminal at the Gordon A. Finch Marine Facility was planned to be completed before April 2024, according to the report. Another new cargo facility at the Wilfred “Bomba” Allick Port and Transshipment Center was set to open in 2024.

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