Harbor Holding takes Dock Maarten to court

Published on: Nov 29, 2014
“Wolf in sheep’s clothing” wants to stop breakwater-construction.
TODAY Newspaper: 11/29/14

Is the St. Maarten Harbour Holding Company a wolf in sheep’s clothing – sympathetic only on the surface? Attorney Roeland Zwanikken described the Holding this way yesterday morning during a lawsuit in summary proceedings it initiated against its neighbor, Dock Maarten NV. The Holding wants Dock to stop immediately with the construction of a breakwater that is by now already half-way finished. The Holding claims it has exclusive rights to any development in Great Bay. Dock claims that the Holding wants to fill in the location of its marina to facilitate the construction of a multi-million dollar hotel. The defendant however, owns the right to long lease for the water parcel where it is constructing the breakwater and it also has a building permit for it.
The Holding’s attorney, Chris van Amersfoort, told the court that his client has an exclusive concession for port activities in Great Bay and that Dock’s breakwater-construction is unlawful.
“All port activities are part of the exploitation of the concession area. Dock wants to undertake port activities in the concession area.”
The attorney said that the port signed a 30-year concession on July 11, 2007 and that only existing activities in Great Bay fall outside of this agreement. “There was only a small quay at the time; that was all. The water parcels Dock is developing now where given in long lease in 2009, 2011 and 2012. They are part of our concession area. Third parties are not allowed to construct anything or to undertake port activities.”
Van Amersfoort said that Dock Maarten wants to build a pier to accommodate mega-yachts, vessels of up to 100 meters in length. “It is worrisome that dock intends to dredge at that location – in our concession area. That is a risky undertaking with possible far-reaching consequences.”
The attorneys for Dock Maarten, Roeland Zwanikken and Norbert Hijmans, shed a different light on the situation. “The Holding makes it look like it defends the environment, the water quality and the general economic interest of St. Maarten, but behind the scenes and in hidden agendas there are completely different interests at stake.
“In reality the Holding wants to fill in the better part of Bobby’s Marina and the Great Bay Marina and build an ultra-modern hotel there. If the Holding gets its way, little will remain of the beautiful port in front of Chesterfield’s Restaurant – the Great Bay Marina – and of Bobby’s Marina. Just like the government, this government-owned company is charmed by projects that are financed by foreign investors and that are costing millions of dollars.”
Zwanikken noted that a daughter company of the Holding – Sint Maarten Harbour Seashore Development NV – has obtained the rights to long lease of Bobby’s Marina. Dock Maarten’s property is stuck in between the Harbour Cruise Facilities and Seashore Development.
Dock Maarten’s expansion plans date back to 2001, and the marina has been in private hands of the Deher family since 1979.
The company’s defense against the Holding is that it is building on a water parcel to which it owns the rights to long lease and that it has obtained a building permit from the government.
The Holding, Zwanikken pointed out, claims that the construction-activities violate the harbor’s concept-master plan. Said plan however, is dated November 12, 2014. Furthermore, the attorney said, the Holding is of the opinion that Dock Maarten has a legal duty to submit development plans and requests for building permits to it for approval.
“Making zoning plans is the job of the Vromi-ministry,” Zwanikken said. “Dock Maarten has inquired at Vromi and they know nothing about a master plan. The Holding has no role to play whatsoever in zoning plans or requests for building permits.”
The attorney told the court that Dock Maarten is building on property to which it holds the right to long lease. He dismissed the Holding’s claim that this water parcel belongs to its concession area. “The government cannot give more than it owns. It cannot grant concessions to property that has been given in long lease to a third party.”
Zwanikken said that the harbor concession only allows the exploitation and management of port activities. “Remarkably, the Holding poses that the concession gives it the exclusive right to erect buildings in the concession area, and that private citizens who want to build in Great Bay not only need a building permit but also permission from the Holding.”
Zwanikken asked the court to deny the Holding’s demand. Judge Koen Luijks will pronounce his verdict on December 5.