The world’s largest independent cruise port operator has agreed to run St John’s cruise port in Antigua.

Global Ports Holding plans to invest into a “material upgrade” including a new pier that will allow giant Royal Caribbean International Oasis-class ships to be handled.

The company also aims to build new purpose-built shopping and food and drink facilities under a long-term concession for cruise port operations in Antigua.

The upgrade will enabled the port to handle more than one million passengers a year, up from the 800,000 projected this year.

GPH has also pledged to establish a charitable foundation to support essential social programs in Antigua and Barbuda.

The company said: “GPH is committed to not only improving the overall cruise passenger experience in Antigua and Barbuda but we are also committed to driving significant economic benefits for the local residents through improving the facilities in and around the port and driving increased passenger spend in the destination.“

“In addition, as part of the proposal, St John’s cruise port offers cruise passengers an opportunity to enjoy a range of experiences and a host of attractions. From the Unesco listed historic Nelson’s Dockyard and fortifications at Shirley Heights through to the town of St John’s itself or any of a large number of beaches that offer a range of activities to suit a wide range of passenger needs. In 2018,

The signing of a concession agreement with the Antigua and Barbuda government is subject to both parties’ agreement on its final terms.

The deal is expected to being finalised in the first half of 2019, “although there can be no certainty as to the timing or that the terms of a concession agreement will be agreed,” GPH said.

“A further announcement will be made when it is appropriate to do so.”

The plan was revealed as the company reported a rise in cruise revenue to $41.4 million in the nine months to September 30 against $38.2 million in the same period last year as passenger numbers handled were maintained at 3.1 million at its 14 cruise ports.

CEO Emre Sayin said: “After a challenging 2017, we are pleased that the business is on track to deliver a strong level of organic growth for the full year.

“There has been progress in our inorganic growth strategy for the cruise segment, with concessions for Havana and Zadar signed so far this year, and an MoU recently signed in relation to port operations in Antigua and Barbuda.

“Trading since the period end at both our cruise and commercial ports has continued in line with our expectations and our full year expectations remain unchanged.”