Sint Maarten: What is the state of the nautical industry 2 years after Hurricane Irma?

Oyster Pond Marina remains badly damaged

Hurricane Irma devastated the island of St. Martin in the West Indies on 7 September 2017. Two years after the disaster, we took stock of the consequences on the boating industry and the plans for the yachting industry with the local trade association, Metimer.

Multi-speed St. Martin marina reconstruction projects

When Bülent Gülay, president of the association of yachting professionals Metimer, draws up a panorama of the state of the port infrastructures for yachting on Sint Maarten, 2 years after the passage of cyclone Irma, the situation is contrasted.

Charter activity was able to resume in the Fort Louis marina, which is 60% operational and hosts major operators such as Dream Yacht Charter, Sunsail The Moorings and Trade Winds. 5 million euros of work has been approved. They have started with a view to full delivery of the enlarged marina in September 2020.

Sunsail's new base in Fort-Louis (Marigot) ©Bateaux.com

In Galis Bay, the wharf in the commercial port needs to be extended to accommodate small cruise ships. The current acceptable draught of 4 metres is to be increased to 8 metres and then 12 metres in a second stage. Dead bodies will be set up for boaters, residents and visitors alike.

The Oyster Pound site is more problematic. Located on the border between the French and Dutch zones, it is the subject of negotiations on the exact position of the separation between the territorial waters. The stalemate at the local level has led to a postponement of negotiations at the state level. "It will be another two to three years before we can do anything" regrets Bülent Gülay.

L'Anse Marcel, now at 25% of its capacity, must present a reconstruction plan to the communities, with a minimum of 40% visitor places. The project will not start until mid-2021.

In Grand-Case, projects of moorings on buoys are under study.

The lagoon, which was particularly hard hit, has still not been cleaned of debris. There are still 126 shipwrecks in the French part of the country. A Dutch de-bottlenecking company has been selected by tender, but it does not yet have French approvals. Work will begin in the spring of 2020.

Studies on the renovation of the Marina Royale are expected in 2021.

The importance of boating is poorly understood by the institutions

Present at the Nautic to show boaters that Sint Maarten was welcoming back sailors, the professionals regret the lack of attention from the institutions. "Community leaders don't realize what a boat represents. A charter fleet is the equivalent of a hotel," explains the president of Métimer. "A lot of charter operators ask us why this isn't going faster. Some manage between anchorages and berths. But they say if it doesn't move, we'll go somewhere else. All the local long-charter companies have disappeared."

Nautical professionals from St. Martin to the Nautic 2019 (in the center Bülent Gülay, president of Métimer)

Actions for boating in St. Martin

In addition to boat rental, the maintenance shipyards have had to adapt, but we will have to think about the future. "A lot of construction sites aren't up to standard, but we had to work hard. We will now have to think about other locations further away from the houses," explains Bülent Gülay. He concludes as follows: "We need to show the community that we need to speed up. Without going faster than the music, we mustn't waste time!"