Setting Up for Expansion
The Port of Roatan is now an integral part of Coxen Hole and Roatan. “Coxen Hole lives and dies based on our success,” said Alvaro Durón, the general manager of the Port of Roatan, which opened its doors in 2007. Roatan, with its Royal Caribbean and Carnival cruise ship terminals, is now the largest port of call in Western Caribbean and should attract 1 million cruise ship passengers this year, an amazing feet considering that only six years ago barely 50,000 cruise shippers visited the island.
Things could get more exciting for Coxen Hole if Mayor Julio Galindo gets his way and with international funds constructs one mile long boardwalk that would span from Port of Roatan east, all the way to Barrio La Punta. “We would love that. It would be good for Coxen Hole,” said Durón about the proposal.
The number of passengers coming to the island could have been even bigger were it not for delays in Port of Roatan filling in the remaining portion of the originally designed cruise ship facility. The delays in constructing the 2.9 Acre site arise because the site is covered by coral and cause a dilemma in what to do with the coral; this has paralyzed the Tegucigalpa lawmakers and ministries.
“For three-and-a-half years our environmental permit was held up. We don’t know why,” says Durón. It was de-facto president Micheletti who finally approved the Port of Roatan’s environmental permit. That still did not solve the issue as five years have passed from the original coral assessment and the condition and quantity of coral has changed. A new environmental assessment has to be done.
Durón expects for that to happen in the coming months and for the work on the expansion of the port to begin on December 2. The land fill should be completed in 18 months along with the construction of 55,000 square feet of retail space. That would more than double the current 33,000 square feet of retail the Port of Roatan currently has filled to 97 percent capacity.
The delays have cost Port of Roatan the ability to construct and rent retail space – its main source of income. Ample retail space is the most important economic element for the Port of Roatan. The per-square-foot prices are very competitive as far as Caribbean goes. Store owners in Belize and Mexico are especially keen on getting a piece of the Roatan’s retail dollar. “We have a waiting list of 20 people waiting for retail spots to open,” said Durón. “Every day we are getting inquiries.”
Unlike its competitor at Mahogany Bay, Port of Roatan has only one cruise ship dock and many passengers have to be brought in by tender. There are times that the port has three cruise ships visiting and that makes things challenging.
Still, the second Royal Caribbean dock might not happen for another three-four years. The Port of Roatan would have to receive 400,000 passengers a year and a certain portion of them would have to be tendered. In 2011, there are around 350,000 cruise shippers expected to visit Port of Roatan.
While retail is by far the biggest source of income for the Port of Roatan, the facility also collects money from cruise ships and island transport operators. A cruise ship passenger fee of $7.55 is collected by the Port of Roatan, $2.40 of that is passed to the Roatan Municipality, then goes to ZOLITUR, and finally to Ministry of Tourism. A transport fee of one dollar per bus, or taxi passenger is levied at the port as well. [/private]