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Port Authority and Cruise Line near a deal

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Port Authority, cruise line near a deal for Crown Bay calls

ST. THOMAS - The V.I. Port Authority has successfully negotiated terms for an agreement - not yet inked - with a cruise line to berth at the authority's Crown Bay Cruise Ship and Commercial Center for guaranteed year-round calls.

Port Authority Governing Board Chairman Robert O'Connor Jr. made the announcement following a lengthy executive session during a meeting on Tuesday.

Officials provided no details on the terms of the agreement, saying that a full and public disclosure will be made once the negotiated terms have been put in writing and the agreement has been executed.

Such a preferential agreement would be a feather in the cap for the as-yet unopened Crown Bay Cruise Ship and Commercial Center, a $31 million project that includes a dock expansion and a 57,000-square-foot commercial center.

The expanded Crown Bay dock can now berth up to two Voyager-class cruise ships, the largest passenger ship model in common use.

"We have to fine-tune the negotiations and then we'll sign," V.I. Port Authority Executive Director Darlan Brin said after the meeting.

He said the negotiations, with what he described as a major cruise line, are targeted at obtaining a long-term agreement that would provide tenants at the waterfront mall with guaranteed year-round foot traffic.

Currently, the Crown Bay dock is second in line for berthing any cruise ships that call on St. Thomas, used only when the West Indian Co.-owned Havensight dock is full. WICO schedules berthings because it acts as the agent for cruise lines.

The Crown Bay Cruise Ship and Commercial Center is now scheduled to open in October, Brin said Tuesday. The waterfront mall will feature upscale shopping and dining, a local arts and crafts gallery and a pedestrian promenade. Brin said that tenants have been identified for about 90 percent of the space at the center.

Construction on the project began in June 2003, and the center was originally scheduled to be finished a year later. The delay has been blamed on a dispute with lead contractor American Bridge Co., which the authority fired in September. Finishing work on the project is nearing completion, Brin said Tuesday.

Source: Joy Blackburn, The Virgin Island Daily News

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