Jamaica Approves Development Plan

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KINGSTON, Jamaica -- The sunken section of Port Royal, dubbed "Pompeii in the Caribbean," came a step closer to becoming a tourism attraction and cruise ship port here after the Jamaican government approved a $58.6 million development plan.

Robert Stephens, managing director of Port Royal Development Co. Limited, said the government approval enables the company to finalize a financing agreement for the project, which could be completed by June 2000.

Port Royal was the most vibrant trading capital and pirate headquarters of the late 17th century before an earthquake sunk two-thirds of the city in 1692. Once known as the "richest and wickedest city in the world," Port Royal is now the focus of a plan to develop it as an attraction similar to Williamsburg in Virginia.

The plan includes museums, shops, taverns, restaurants, theaters and an underwater structure that would enable visitors to view the sunken section of the city.

Dr. Paul Robertson, Jamaica's minister of industry and investment, confirmed the approval, the PRDCL said.

The government is expected to invest $1.6 million and Port Royal Environment Management Trust is to raise another $2 million from donor agencies, which leaves $55 million to be raised by PRDCL.

Potential investors include the National Investment Bank of Jamaica, Caribbean Development Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Finance Corporation and the Commonwealth Development Corp., in addition to other local and overseas private investors, according to the PRDCL.

Stephens said he is "talking to cruise lines" that have "indicated interest in developing port calls, which is a positive sign."

Environmental Impact Assessment Studies are to begin shortly.

Construction is expected to begin in the third or fourth quarter of 1998 with cruise ships expected by June 2000 at the end of Phase I construction.

Port Royal is expected to attract about 5,000 cruise ship passengers daily, which would generate about $125 million annually in tourism revenue, according to PRDCL.

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