Seeking Solutions: WICO’s Strategic Efforts to Overcome Financial Challenges



The West Indian Company (WICO) is navigating through financial turbulence, aiming to reinvigorate its economic stance and fulfill its obligations to the government. During a recent session with the Senate Budget, Appropriations and Finance Committee, WICO CEO Anthoney Ottley shared insights into the hurdles the company is confronting, particularly in the aftermath of the pandemic.

The core of WICO’s financial strain lies in its struggle to meet the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT), a $700,000 yearly fee owed to the Government of the Virgin Islands. This challenge has accumulated over $10 million in debt since 2006, despite partial payments. Ottley pointed to the rise of Crown Bay and the Austin “Babe” Monsanto Marine Terminal as key factors diverting cruise traffic away from WICO, exacerbating its financial predicament. A novel approach to the PILOT, proposing a payment system based on a percentage of net operating expenses, was suggested as a potential pathway forward.

The Senate Committee engaged in a robust discussion with Ottley, exploring various avenues for WICO to enhance its revenue streams. Currently reliant on passenger fees and rental incomes, WICO is exploring diverse opportunities to bolster its financial health. Initiatives include diversifying dock offerings and developing adjacent properties, with a keen eye on innovative partnerships, such as leveraging shore power connections for docked cruise ships—a collaborative venture with the Water and Power Authority that is under consideration.

Committee members, including Senator Novelle Francis, encouraged WICO to articulate its strategies for financial improvement in a white paper, highlighting the mutual benefits of revising the PILOT framework. Additionally, suggestions were made to utilize untapped assets, such as the development of Estate Liverpool land and leveraging the Estate Catherineberg property, to generate additional income.

As WICO aspires to achieve pre-pandemic passenger volumes by 2025, the company is committed to exploring every avenue to revitalize its operations and settle its debts. The dialogue with the Senate Committee underscores a collective determination to secure a sustainable future for WICO, reinforcing its pivotal role in the Virgin Islands’ economic landscape.

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