Native Falmouth Vendors Gain Foothold at Port.

The Falmouth cruise port.

Falmouth is a newer port of call in the Caribbean.  The cruise port at Falmouth was built as a partnership between the Port Authority of Jamaica and Royal Caribbean International and opened in 2011.  It added to Jamaica a custom built port that mirrors the model being seen increasingly across the caribbean.  The port includes purpose built piers able to accommodate even the largest cruise ships, with a large, modern, duty-free shopping mall through which all passengers filter.  The stores in the mall are rented by many different types of business'.   These range from the obligatory Diamonds International to small family owned shops.  At the edge of the port is a purpose-built bus terminal used to board passengers onto bus' for their pre-planned excursions.  The intent here as elsewhere, is to create a controlled, quality environment in which passengers can make smooth exits to their planned excursions or simply enjoy some hours shopping without chaotic taxi stands and vendors pursuing people.

 

Shops at Falmouth 

Like most such newer port terminals, Falmouth features some space within the duty free mall for local merchants.  These tend to be limited in space as compared to the larger company and privately owned stores in the ports buildings.  These areas tend to be called "artisan villages" or shops and In some cases the merchants are indeed local and sometimes actually the artists who created what is being sold.  They are selected merchants and not random to be sure.  Since the establishment of the port local vendors from within the town of Falmouth have sought to setup stands just outside of the gates.  

Falmouth Jamiaca

According to the local media in Falmouth and Jamaica, the local vendors are going to have access to a new space being built for opening in October 2017.  The space is intended to reduce or eliminate the "tarpoline village" outside of the port.  Local vendors have mixed feelings on the new stalls.  They are happy to have them at all on the one hand but complain they are too small.  Local officials have responded by saying the merchants should not expect or intend to stock everything they have but be more selective and focused in what they attempt to sell.

Local Vendors and the Villiage of Tarpoline

The new local vendor stalls come as Falmouth is reported to be under growing pressure by Royal Caribbean and Carnival to improve conditions across the board at Falmouth.  Little specifically has been said, though some media reports have interpreted talk of reduced visitations as being the elimination of the port or to over state dissatisfaction with conditions at Falmouth.  However passenger reviews and comments in the last couple of years have indicated the conditions at the excursion bus terminal, nearby road conditions and the quality of shops have faltered in recent years.  Given the importance of the port to Jamaica's future and the amount invested into the project by the cruise industry, it is likely improvements will be quick in coming.

 

Jones Act Waiver for Puerto Rico

With the response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico lagging badly behind that seen in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and after growing public calls for action, the U.S. finally waived the Jones Act for a time.  This will allow a wider range of ships to transit directly between ports in the U.S. and the Caribbean island territory. The Jones Act is an example of "cabotage law," meaning regulation of trade between domestic ports. Laws like it exist in most countries and the intent originally was to protect fleets of merchant marine ships and personnel from competition from other countries. The fear was that if other countries could push domestic ship building out of business and reduce the number of native sailors. In the event of a war such a weakness could have been disastrous for most countries dependent on trade over water.

The law forces trade (passenger travel or goods and services) traveling from one U.S. port to another must be built in the U.S., crewed by Americans, and owned by Americans. The Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1920 is very similar and applies to passenger vessels specifically. The PVSA however states that no ship failing any of the three mandates in the Jones Act can pick passengers up in one U.S. port, then debark them at a different U.S. port without visiting a second country first. In this case the Jones Act prevents fleets of ships that fail any of the three mandates to travel directly from American ports to Puerto Rico. This had the effect of crippling shipments of needed supplies and materials needed to aid hurricane recover efforts. Within the cruise industry and beyond there is strong sentiment to update and change the Jones Act and the PVSA to reflect modern times. Such would allow for radical growth in cruises that travel entire itineraries of U.S. and Canadian ports, boost tourism in said ports and certainly create new jobs. However the Jones Act and PVSA have staggeringly well funded, determined and organized union and business interests who have successfully defended the laws for nearly a hundred years. Some think the hurricanes might finally lead to some changes but there seems little momentum given the current political climate in the U.S.

Hurricane Irma Comes to Claim Your Soul! (Or just cruise plans.)

Hurricane Irma is picking up speed and power.  Per our updated image here, thanks to the National Weather Service's National Hurricane Center, Irma is expected to be near or ashore in the Florida Keys and possibly the greater Miami area.  Major cruise lines are already canceling cruises ahead of time and sending ships to alternate ports ahead of time.  If you are cruising within the next two weeks you should contact your travel agent or cruise line today.

 

Hurricane Irma Notes

Hurricane Irma caused wide-spread damage on St. Maarten/Saint Marten.  St. Thomas is only starting to report damages.  Having said that, despite the hefty winds and rain the last 30 years of building to modern standards appears to have helped prevent swaths of business' and homes from being annihilated entirely.  Evacuation orders for areas throughout Florida have lead to early closing of ports, airports and even some cruise lines corporate headquarters.  Irma is expected to reach southern Florida by Sunday afternoon and will proceed north over the next day.  Virtually all cruises leaving from Florida are already canceled starting with those departing Thursday.  Expect to see cruises up the eastern coast of the U.S. cancel soon.

 The Red Cross has updated their hurricane relief page for those that wish to help.  

Hurricane Irma Notes - Thursday P.M.

Hurricane Irma caused wide-spread damage on St. Maarten/Saint Marten.  The French side of the island appears to have taken the brunt of the damage.  St. Thomas is reporting heavy damage and many buildings that simply failed against 185 mile an hour winds.  All cruises leaving from Florida are now canceled.  Expect to see cruises up the eastern coast of the U.S. cancel soon.  Cancelation policy varies but most lines are refunding 100% of the cruises canceled with some credit toward an additional future cruise.  Most ships are seeking refuge in the Western Caribbean.  Most of Florida is at risk of wind and rain damage and many roads north are clogged.

 The Red Cross hurricane relief page for those that wish to help.  

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