The owner of a barge reportedly heading to Gibraltar has had preliminary discussions with the government about operating a floating hotel here.
However, it stressed that no location has been earmarked, and all discussions are at an early stage. This comes after the government initially told GBC that none of the proposals it has received involve this particular vessel.
Reports first surfaced about the Medway Barge in the online portal, Kent Online news last week. It announced that the accommodation barge was set to leave Rochester for a new life in Gibraltar.
The report referred to a “mystery businessman” who had purchased the barge and planned to transform it into 400 luxury holiday apartments in Gibraltar.
Marine construction Manager Greg Chalmers told Kent Online the barge – to be renamed Sea Breeze - would be completely refitted and should be up and running on the Rock by Christmas.
GBC asked the Government whether it had any knowledge of this project. It said it had been approached by a number of potential operators of luxury floating hotels. However, no new permissions have been granted for Gibraltar. Insofar as it was aware, none of the proposals involved this vessel.
However, GBC learned that the owner of the barge was a UK businessman called Richard Hunt. We telephoned Mr Hunt and asked him to confirm if the barge was coming to Gibraltar. He denied the story, and dismissed it as a false rumour. He also denied speaking to any Ministers on the Rock.
But GBC later learned that Mr Hunt had travelled to Gibraltar very recently to look at possible locations for the barge. Both Ocean Village and Queensway Quay marinas told GBC the vessel was not destined for their marinas.
That leaves the Government-owned small boats marina, at Mid Harbours, which issued an expression of Interest published towards the end of last year, to develop the northern most end of Peter Isola Promenade
GBC sent further questions to Number Six, this time including Richard Hunt’s name. The Government said: Mr Hunt is one of a number of investors who have approached the Government about operating a floating hotel in Gibraltar. It said, no location has been earmarked and all discussions are at an early stage.
The Sea Breeze flotel is the subject of a glossy brochure showing CGI drawings of the vessel berthed in the Mid Harbour marina – at the location that was put out to tender. The deadline for expressions of interest was the 20th November 2020.
The brochure offers an insight into the proposed development of the barge into a luxury hotel and names Mr Hunt as the developer.
Also mentioned is local interior design company, Sacarello Interiors, who in answer to GBC questions, confirmed they were first approached by an intermediary a year ago. However, the company said has not been involved in any negotiations or discussions with the government since then, and are unaware whether or not the project is going ahead.