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U.S. Navy vessel, three cruise ships cancel St. Maarten calls after threat of terrorist attack

By John Collins (1)

The visit of the USS Gettysburg to Dutch St. Maarten was cancelled after a threat of terrorist attacks against three cruise ships resulted in their being diverted to other ports.

Although the threat of the terrorist attacks was later declared to be a hoax, the damage had already been done as the popular cruise ship port, popular for its shopping,  lost million of dollars in revenues.

While several cruise ships call at St. Maarten each week, the cancellation of the Gettysburg was particularly hurtful because it was the first visit of a U.S. Navy vessel to St. Maarten since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S.

The visit of a Navy ship, especially one with hundreds of sailors, for four days, has a big impact on the island’s tourism-based economy. Sailors are particularly popular with business people in St. Maarten because, in addition to shopping and patronizing hotels, restaurants and bars, a number of which count them among their best customers.

“Shock” was the reaction of Janet Taylor-Lambert, the president of the local chapter of the United Services Organization (USO). “We’re extremely disappointed by the cancellation and worry about the ‘domino effect’ because bad news travels fast,” she said.

After that initial jolt, the Norway, the Century and the Carnival Pride, each with passenger counts of 2,000 or more, all cancelled.

As the Dutch St. Maarten government declared the threat was declared a hoax, it moved swiftly into a damage control mode in an effort to control further fall out from the incident.

“St. Maarten is a safe and secure destination,” declared Lt. Gov. Franklyn Richards. “Punitive measures are being contemplated against the person behind the hoax.” A local resident has already been identified by the police.

As a result of the cancellations the town, usually crowded with tourists, was virtually deserted, much to the dismay of merchants and taxi drivers.

Richards said the government was informed by the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association  (FCCA) that the ships were diverted because of weather and not because of letter including the threat. But the managing director of the Ports Authority said that there were no adverse weather conditions in the area at the time the threat was received.

The letter indicated that jet-skis packed with explosives were to be used as the weapon in the attack. The governor moved immediately to increase security measures in the port to the top level and the FCCA announced that there have been no other cancellations.  






1) Other articles by the well known Caribbean author John Collins can be read at:

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May 27, 2002


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