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Port Royal, Jamaica

Cruise Port plan on south coast resurfaces

A long-held ambition to redevelop the historical Port Royal into a new cruise port in Jamaica has resurfaced as the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) seeks investors to get the project rolling.

Jamaica already receives over 1 million cruise passengers a year at its four major cruise ports of Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Port Antonio and the recently developed Falmouth; but the master plan for Port Royal has been in existence for over 20 years. Port Royal would be the first cruise port on Jamaica’s south coast.

It would be the second new cruise port in recent years and would follow the successful creation of Historic Falmouth, a cruise terminal and cultural visitor village on Jamaica’s north coast. Historic Falmouth was created in a hitherto largely forgotten coastal town with a colourful history. It is perhaps the success of that project that prompted a revival of interest in redeveloping Port Royal, which also has a strong historical profile and perhaps even more tourism potential.

port royal ren aer

Shareholders

Interest in the project was first shown in 1993; but since 1997 it has been driven largely by the Port Royal Development Company (RPDC), comprising 51 shareholders from the private and public sectors. Following the involvement of the UDC in late 2013, the project could finally be coming to fruition.

The master plan, developed by the Jerde Partnership, includes various heritage sites around the reconstructed Chocolata Hole harbour. Attractions would include restaurants, shops, taverns and cafés as well as modern boutiques. All buildings would feature 17th century-style architecture.

Other elements would include a sunken city, a five-star hotel, an entertainment centre, museums and themed attractions. There would also be two visitor arrival centres in addition to the cruise pier.

Total cost of the project – which could create up to 20,000 new jobs – is put at US$ 492 million. Most of the investment would be required for infrastructure, with the rest going on restoration of historical sites and development of retail areas. The proposed site area covers about 320 acres and includes 115,000 square metres of buildings.

First Phase

The first phase would be the cruise pier, costing about US$ 30 to 40 million. This would take a year to complete and within two years the site could be receiving its first cruise passengers.

Architectural drawings, a master plan and sonar recordings are already available to potential investors, although it is expected that any investor will also be involved in the design and implementation. Although the project has tentative government approval, it is the need to wait for investors to come forward that has stalled the process.

The project is viewed very much as part of developing the tourism potential of the so-called Historic Triangle – Port Royal, Spanish Town and Kingston – with hotel developments in Kingston providing accommodation for a large number of visitors. Projections show that the facility could be receiving up to 10,000 visitors a day by 2025. The ultimate goal is to turn Kingston into a major homeport for cruise ships.

 

Port’s raffish history has huge tourism potential

Today it is a quaint fishing village; but in its heyday Port Royal was one of the most important settlements in the Caribbean, a busy harbour used regularly by pirates and buccaneers. It developed a reputation as the wickedest place on earth.

The town that became Port Royal began life as a fishing harbour used by the island’s earliest inhabitants, the Tainos. Located at the mouth of Kingston Harbour, it forms part of the Historic Triangle that also includes Spanish Town and Kingston itself.

Later, the Spanish used Port Royal as a harbour for their vessels, but after the British captured the port in 1655 its wealth – and infamy – began to grow. State-sponsored privateers and non state-sponsored pirates swarmed into Port Royal and not only spent their plundered Spanish riches but also helped defend the port against enemy attacks.

As Port Royal grew richer, the excesses of its people and the town’s reputation for debauchery got worse. It is said that a quarter of the buildings were either bars or brothels. A paradise for pirates and buccaneers, Port Royal developed a reputation for separating pirates from their ill-gotten gain.

In 1692, however, a huge earthquake hit the area, the town was virtually demolished and much of it sank beneath the waves. The earthquake that put an end to Port Royal was seen by many as divine retribution for its wicked ways. However, most of the former town, including hundreds of sunken ships, lies just a few metres under the water. Because of its rich bounty of shipwrecks, it is regarded by some experts as one of the most important underwater sites in the world.

This rich cultural heritage could now be used to recreate the vibrancy of the 17th century for tourists and cruise passengers. Reconstructed buildings would include period-style waterfront cafés and shops, the Royal Naval Dockyard, the Admiralty headquarters and a museum of shipbuilding.

The government hopes the area will also be recognised by Unesco and designated a World Heritage Site.