The Jamaica Gleaner reports that Royal Caribbean and it’s subsidiary, Falmouth Jamaica Land Company, are required to disclose their contractual arrangements with the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) to build Falmouth Port because they were a day late in filing a notice of appeal.
An environmental watchdog group, the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), had previously requested copies of the contracts and other documents between Royal Caribbean / Falmouth Jamaica Land Company and the PAJ which had formed a joint venture to develop the Port of Falmouth in Trelawny. The controversial project was spearheaded by Royal Caribbean and involved the dredging and filling of the old port of Falmouth. It turned out, as many environmentalists feared, to be a disaster to the local environment of Falmouth. Millions of cubic feet of living coral reefs were pulverized and then dumped on dozens of acres of native mangrove fields to build a port capable of accommodating the largest cruise ships in the world, the Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas.
The finished port left many local residents disappointed due to the fact that most passengers either did not leave the walled port facility and invest much in the local economy or were whisked away from Falmouth in buses to shore excursion destinations sold by the cruise line.
Jamaica spent a small fortune for the port, well over $150,000,000. Royal Caribbean promised that it would pursue plans of developing 125,000 sq. ft. of leasable building space, including ground floor retail, restaurant space, a boutique hotel, residential units, and a shopping center for the local community, all linked to the original town by tram-cars, to be built by the cruise line in collaboration with the Port Authority of Jamaica.
According to the Jamaica Gleaner, Royal Caribbean reportedly guaranteed $8 million in annual fees to the PAJ, based on a formula of bringing a minimum of 667,000 passengers annually or paying the shortfall, for a ten year period. The cruise line also reportedly promised the PAJ, which owns the land on which the pier is built, an annual ground rent of approximately $3 million. There was also talk about hundreds of new jobs created in the port project, including "construction workers, drivers, shop workers, sales clerks, cooks, bartenders and wait staff, security guards, maintenance staff, information and walking tour guides, entertainers, artisans and taxi drivers."
The disclosure of the contracts and other documents between Royal Caribbean and the PAJ should shed light on the true nature and details of the arrangements between the Miami-based cruise line and the Jamaican port authority. However, the port authority refused to reveal the documents to the environmental trust. The environment trust appealed to an Access to Information Appeal Tribunal, which ruled in its favor.
Royal Caribbean sought permission to appeal the ruling of the Access to Information Appeal Tribunal, which was granted on July 7, 2015 by the Supreme Court. Royal Caribbean then filed its appeal notice, with an Appeal Tribunal, on July 22, fifteen days later.
But the Appeal Tribunal questioned whether Royal Caribbean had filed its appeal outside of the court’s 14 day filing requirement and sought an order striking Royal Caribbean’s appeal. Royal Caribbean argued that the date the order was granted should not be counted in the 14-day period, but this argument was rejected.
The ruling striking Royal Caribbean’s appeal was upheld by the Appellate Court which concluded that the cruise line’s appellate forms were filed one day late using a 14 day period beginning on the date of the order requiring the documents to be disclosed.
Royal Caribbean can apply to the Court of Appeal for leave to appeal to the Privy Council, Jamaica’s final court of appeal.
As maters now stand, the Jamaica Environment Trust expects to finally obtain a copy of the lease agreement and the pier usage agreement from the Port Authority.
Photo Credit: Jim Walker