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Saint Barthelemy: New Harbour Offices Open

Take one of the most charming ports in the Caribbean, add two talented French architects, and the desire to create an impressive “ Capitainerie.” The result is the handsome new building that opened in late January on the main dock in Saint Barth. Over a decade ago, a master plan was put into place for the development of the Port of Gustavia, the yacht basin for Saint Barth that serves as one of the major economic factors of the island, as well as one of the most popular ports in the region.

Over the year, the various elements of that master plan have become reality as the docks themselves have been improved, with added amenities such as electricity, television, and internet service (only water was available before) and the main dock has been paved in granite blocks. The new building housing the Port offices and a large reception room add a serious bit of architecture, as well as much needed facilities, to the infrastructure of the Port.

The handsome new building, designed by two Saint Barth-based architects from France, Pierre Monsaingeon and Philippe Stouvenot, is called “The Capitainerie.” Its exterior combines natural elements such as fieldstone and wood, with more modern touches of stainless steel such as the railings and staircases that run along teak decks and a large teak terrace, recalling similar elements in nautical design. An outdoor lookout above the curved entry area is topped by a round white roof, referred to as the “world’s largest Frisbee.” This modern architectural touch also evokes a nautical sensibility.

Inside, the Port staff are comfortable in modern offices, furnished with light wood desks and bookshelves with blue upholstered chairs that blend nicely with the gray of the tiles on the floors and the blue doors throughout, not to mention the blue of the sea that can be seen through all of the windows. “In 1984, the staff was only two people,” points out Port director, Bruno Gréaux. “Today, we have a staff of 10, and handle all of the administration for the main docks, as well as the year-round residents of the Port, and the increased traffic at the commercial dock in Public. There are also more ferries and cruise ships than there were in the past. The Port has developed to meet all of these needs.”

The entry area on the first floor is much larger than in the old “ Capitainerie,” as well, providing a more comfortable situation for Port clients as they fill out paperwork upon arrival or departure from the harbor. Upstairs, in addition to an office for the Port director, one for the harbor masters (both with windows overlooking the docks; the harbor’s masters’ office has a view as far as Saint Martin on a clear day), and one for administrative personnel, there is also a large reception room with a vaulted wooden ceiling and a wall with small round windows that echo portholes on a ship. This room opens onto the long teak deck and teak terrace, also overlooking the dock.

Other improvements include the latest in computer technology and TV monitors in the walls to display important information, as well as an electronic weather station to indicate the force and direction of the wind, and new services for boats including electricity, telephone, and Internet (there are under development). “Another improvement for the staff is a locker room with showers where we can change,” says Gréaux, who will have a large magnetic map of the Port zone and individual magnetized boats that can be placed according to their placement in the Port. All of these improvements mean not only better working conditions for the staff, but also better service for the clients of the Port. “Some of our clients have said the new Capitainerie is the most beautiful they have ever seen,” Gréaux notes.

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