The Port of FERNANDINA’s efforts to boost the cruise ship industry is still proving to be a challenge.
One problem concerns that Ocean Highway and Port Authority (OHPA) as of its most recent meeting is still working out the details with WestRock who is the owner of the dock. In a February email from one WestRock’s lawyers, the company hasn’t granted the cruise ship docking waivers, and has demanded that the port cease.
“It’s what I’ve learned that WestRock objections included the fact that we were not able to make use of their property we bought from them to use for any port that is a … the cruise terminal for ships, parking or any type of facility that could be used by the cruise ship,” OHPA Chairman Danny Fullwood said at the meeting. “Well we’re not doing this. This is located on one side, the east of railroad tracks, the property is in particular. The location where we operate our cruise vessel is located on that side, which is west of railroad tracks, at the dock. We’re therefore not breaking my opinion it’s the rules that require us to do not utilize that terminal.”
Another wrench to throw into the mix is the fact it is the fact that law firms that represents OHPA has a relationship with WestRock and WestRock, that OHPA legal counsel Patrick Krechowski reminded the board of prior to giving his explanation of his position.
“I haven’t confirmed this myself but I’m sure that cruise ship activities occur on parcels that weren’t transferred by OHPA via WestRock,” Krechowski said.
Nassau Terminals CEO Chris Ragucci Chris Ragucci, who presented the cruise deal to the board in the beginning was also adamant about prudential decision-making.
“I’ve been advised not to talk about our legal research about this in public, however, I’m informed by our lawyer that until you receive the positive green signal from WestRock It’s still a feeling that … it’s possible that you may be accused of being sued,” Ragucci said. “You have recently stated the fact that WestRock warned that they would sue us if we take this action If they suit you, they’ll also pursue us too. We’re all in it together. We don’t would like to do.”
There will be two cruise ship cruises scheduled to visit the port this spring, and there will be a series of cruise ship calls in the fall, which could be a possibility or not dependent on how the scenario develops.
“We hope to solve this issue in the summer and then they’ll have five calls to make in the fall that will start I think at the end of September.” Ragucci said.
At present it is the Ocean Voyager vessel from American Queen Voyages anchors in the Amelia River and another boat is required to transport passengers across. Amelia River Cruises is the ferry company.
“They used (Amelia River Cruises’ owner) Kevin McCarthy to take passengers off and bring passengers to the city docks, which are located at Marina,” Fullwood said. “He called me and we had a lengthy discussion about it. He can’t afford to do this. He told me he’s losing business catering to ships like that.”
But, OHPA and Nassau Terminals each agreed to carry together to ensure that the ships continue to come.
“I believe (the cruises) are beneficial for us, and also good in the world of community” Fullwood said.
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