A birds-eye view of the waters of Great Bay.
PHILIPSBURG--Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI Egbert Doran has signed a lease agreement with a company, the name of which was not provided, for an underwater museum that will be based in the waters of Great Bay.
Doran made the announcement during the live Council of Ministers press briefing on Wednesday, noting that the attraction called “The West Indies Museum” is to be an underwater artificial reef for St. Maarten celebrating the culture and history of the West Indies, “all the while promoting the conservation of our oceans.”
When asked with whom the agreement was signed, Doran said that while it is no secret and while every agreement signed is public knowledge, it is not fitting for him to disclose the name of the company as they were still busy with the process.
“I am not gonna sit on this platform and disclose the name of the company and all those things. I think that they would … when they open or release that, that it will happen because they are still busy with a process with TEATT [Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication – Ed.]. So, that still needs to walk the trajectory, so I don’t think it would be fitting for me to mention that now.”
When asked whether he is saying that he cannot indicate with whom the agreement was signed, he said: “I didn’t say that. I said I don’t feel it’s fitting at this point because they are still busy with a process and I think that that should be respected. Maybe by next week when they mention that they're gonna start up their company, then that would be known, but it’s not a secret because just to clarify – everything that is signed in here is public knowledge.
“So, it’s not as if Jurendy the person, but the minister of country St. Maarten signed an agreement. So, it’s not a secret. But, however, I don’t feel at this point of them not finalising their process with TEATT, it would be fitting for me to mention that.”
Doran said the underwater museum will be a “unique attraction” on the island. “The project would be the second of its kind in this region and I look forward to seeing it come to fruition finally. This project has been vetted and approved by all relevant stakeholders, including the Tourist Office, the Ministry of TEATT, the Culture Department and the environmental organisations such as the Nature Foundation and SIMARC [Sint Maarten Archaeological Center] and the archaeological foundation,” he said.
“I believe that this is a great step toward enhancing our product that we have and we portray as a tourism destination with an attraction such as this.”
In response to a question he outlined the type of agreement signed. “A rental agreement was signed, because as Minister of VROMI you are over ‘erfpacht’ [ground lease], so land and/or water or water on land, so to speak, because the law does not recognise water rights. It recognises the land that's under the water.
“So, for that reason they had to apply for a lease or permission to use, which we did a rental contract for them to use a particular area. Studies were done as to the safety and different things with the Nature Foundation, as I mentioned, SIMARC, our policy department as well as now they have to get the green light from the Ministry of TEATT in order to operate a business as we know,” he explained.
He said the attraction will be in the area of Great Bay. “It has to be in a safe area where there are no operations taking place and all the safety precautions have to be adhered to. So that is also steps that they need to take before they can operate. So, sort of a verification process.”