20 February 2009

Resorts World Sentosa: at what price?

Resorts World at Sentosa yesterday revised the cost for the 49ha resort in its earnings call, bringing it up to $6.59 billion. This is the second time the budget has been revised: It was bumped up from $5.2 billion to $6 billion in November 2007.
Sentosa reclamation begins
Reclamation of Sentosa shores for the Integrated Resort in Jul 07

Resorts World at Sentosa chief executive officer Tan Hee Teck said the extra money was needed for improvements to the design of the casino project, 'we needed more money to bring the attractions up to a superlative level.'

The natural shores of Sentosa have paid a price. What price must the whale sharks and dolphins pay?

Meanwhile on their website, Resorts World Sentosa has put up a Marine Life Park Statement, dated 9 Jan 09

From the Resorts World Sentosa website
Marine Life Park Statement, dated 9 Jan 09
The Marine Life Park team is committed to engaging animal groups as well as individuals, and welcomes dialogue and feedback. In this statement, we will address questions that groups and individuals have raised about the dolphins and whale sharks that will be in our Park when it opens.

We believe there is a place for zoos and aquariums in society. It is not a coincidence that ranking high among Singapore’s most popular attractions are its wildlife parks. We are committed to develop a world-class facility that will set the standard in Asia for animal care, learning and education and the promotion of marine conservation. A world-class team of experienced professionals and animal experts will be set up to deliver this promise.

Not many people, especially Asians, have the privilege to dive, sail and live near the oceans. We believe our Park will play a crucial role in educating visitors on the variety and beauty of marine animals. The Park will be a unique window for visitors to appreciate the ocean and the need for its conservation. We are convinced it will ignite and heighten environmental awareness and action among our guests. The presence of pandas in China’s zoos, for instance, has done much to raise the profile of the animal and create awareness of its endangered status.

Our pledge on conservation has been put into practice even before we open. In May 2008, we launched the Marine Life Fund, which will disburse up to S$3.2 million over five years, to help marine-life related research, education and conservation projects. In December 2008, the Fund made its first disbursement to international conservation organisation WildAid for its work in protecting the Galapagos Marine Reserve. Pictures and details of the project can be found on Marine Life Park section.

The marine animals at the Marine Life Park

The movement of marine animals, such as dolphins, is governed by the United Nations Environment Programme which upholds the internationally agreed upon policies of the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES). Bottlenose dolphins are not classified as endangered. They are listed under CITES Appendix II, which lists species that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled. In the same category as them are hippopotamuses in zoos and the Africa Grey Parrots in bird parks. Decades of successful breeding of bottlenose dolphins in parks that span Australia to Hong Kong and the United States have shown these animals to be very adaptable to living in controlled environments. It is estimated that there are at least 600,000 bottlenose dolphins in the wild today.

The actions of exporting and importing countries involved in the relocation of these animals are closely monitored by the CITES Secretariat. The acquisition of animals for the Marine Life Park will be done in full compliance with CITES and local regulations, which cover stringent criteria on husbandry practices, animal welfare and the size of animals’ habitat. For more than 30 years, CITES has been the global body mandated to regulate and protect the conservation of wild animals. For all of the Marine Life Park’s acquisition of animals, CITES will be the standard we adhere to.

Contrary to comments made by some quarters, we have explored acquiring animals from other aquariums. However, surplus dolphins from established aquariums have not been available for acquisition over these few years. We have supported and engaged in regular dialogue with a group that made such comments and in April 2008, requested it to refer us to any aquarium that was known to have available dolphins. We will continue to engage this group but to date, we have not received any referral.

Whale Sharks
Whale sharks are currently listed as “threatened”, a category below “endangered” in the protection list. They are “threatened’’ for a variety of reasons, many of which are a result of human activities that threaten the oceans. The threat these animals face in the wild makes the role of aquariums in their conservation all the more crucial.

We need to conserve and learn about these animals as much as we can before their population becomes critically unsustainable. There have been similar doubts on whether pandas and bottlenose dolphins could breed in captivity, and zoos and aquariums have played a crucial role in breaking ground in that respect to ensure these species continue to exist. It is the Marine Life Park’s goal to contribute to the study and research of whale sharks, and to do its part to help protect the species’ wild population from disappearing.

Committed to be the best
Since its inception in 2006, the Marine Life Park team has worked closely with marine experts and other stakeholders to ensure that the park’s development follows top-notch international practices. We intend to gain accreditation from a reputable international body once the Park is established. It is our mission to provide our animals with top-class care, and to treat them with respect.

The Marine Life Park team recognises the issues raised by groups and individuals, and also appreciates the support and well wishes from supporters who have expressed keen anticipation to work and meet some of its magnificent residents. We welcome views and remain committed to dialogue with special interest groups, supporters and any individual who is keen to learn and act on marine conservation.

We welcome any feedback/comments; please feel free to email us at csr@rwsentosa.com

The Marine Life Park Team

Read more on the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums website

Sentosa, Marina IRs get pricier
Both are revising costs upwards for 2nd time
Lim Wei Chean, Straits Times 20 Feb 09;
SINGAPORE'S two integrated resorts (IRs) are getting increasingly expensive, with both developers revising their cost estimates upwards for a second time.

An additional $590 million will need to be pumped into the kitty for the Sentosa project, while the price tag for the Marina Bay Sands development has gone up by US$900 million.

Resorts World at Sentosa yesterday revised the cost for the 49ha resort in its earnings call, bringing it up to $6.59 billion. This is the second time the budget has been revised: It was bumped up from $5.2 billion to $6 billion in November 2007.

Marina Bay Sands will cost more as well. At last week's earnings call, Las Vegas Sands Corp announced its Singapore IR is estimated to cost US$5.4 billion, an upward revision from previous estimates of US$3.6 billion and US$4.5 billion.

No explanations were given by Sands for the increase in cost, but it raised US$2.1 billion last November in a rights issue to cover its projects, including the one in Singapore.

Resorts World at Sentosa chief executive officer Tan Hee Teck said yesterday that additional funding would come from operating cash flows when the casino resort opens next year.

The extra money was needed for improvements to the design of the casino project, he said. Areas which were tweaked included pedestrian flow, the monorail stop at the resort and adjustments to the 24 attractions.

He said: 'We want to make sure each and every attraction is up to standard. We found we needed more money to bring the attractions up to a superlative level.' Moreover, construction costs had risen sharply in the last few years, he added. Steel, for example, rose from $800 per tonne in 2007 to $1,800 last year.

CIMB-GK Song Seng Wun said it was simply bad timing that the IR projects were awarded at the peak of the construction boom, which led to costs spiralling upwards.

Construction projects awarded earlier do not benefit from prices softening since the global financial meltdown, as they had locked in materials at a higher rate, Resorts World's Mr Tan said.

Despite the revision in budget and the ongoing global recession, Mr Justin Tan, managing director of parent company Genting International, said he is 'still as confident' in the success of the project.

As travellers trim their budget to take in short-haul travel, visitors from China and India who may have splurged on trips to Las Vegas or Europe would head to Singapore instead, he added.

Resorts World at Sentosa is slated to open on schedule by March next year.

One section of the resort is due for completion next week when its first 11-storey hotel, the Maxims Tower, is topped off. It will be the first development to be completed at either of the IRs.

Marina Bay Sands is expected to open in the fourth quarter of this year. However, it is uncertain which parts of the resort will be ready as Las Vegas Corp said only 'certain features' are targeted to be ready by December.

The resort has applied to the Government for a staggered opening, but has yet to receive official approval.

Resorts World at Sentosa to top out first hotel this month
Channel NewsAsia 19 Feb 09;
SINGAPORE: Resorts World at Sentosa will top out its first hotel, Maxims Tower, by the end of this month.

The structural completion of the 11-storey hotel marks yet another major milestone in the development of the integrated resort, which remains on track for a soft opening in the first quarter of 2010.

Maxims Tower will open with three other hotels - Hotel Michael, Festive Hotel and Hard Rock Hotel - as well as the casino, Le Vie Theatre, a 7,300-seat Grand Ballroom, and Universal Studios Singapore.

Installation of ride equipment for the many attractions at Universal Studios Singapore has also begun, with testing and commissioning of the attractions scheduled to begin in October 2009.- CNA/ir

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