Adrian Loveridge Column – Overdue Ferry Service
I noticed that our media recently yet again highlighted the ‘possibility’ of the introduction of a ferry service between the southern Caribbean islands. For so many reasons the idea makes perfect sense, including the ability of transporting both goods and people more economically from island to island. A classic example for me is on my various visits to Dominica, it’s still difficult to accept that during certain periods of the year, tens of thousands of mangoes are falling to and rotting on the ground, while we still pay a premium price locally.
With our own tourism industry, especially with the current relentless trend towards more and more all-inclusive hotels practice of importing hundreds of refrigerated containers monthly, many of which may not contribute any tax revenue, then this is an issue ‘we’ finally have to address.
While the concept of a regional ferry service is very desirable, I cannot see that our, or any bordering Government, is going to come up with the capital required to purchase and operate any number of purpose -built or adapted vessels, so could the private sector and speculative investors be tempted? Perhaps, in the case of Barbados, the much vaunted possibility of a Speightstown port, to primarily service the smaller cruise ships.
Could this be a partial key?
Of course, if you are going to add additional, customs, immigration and security for such a facility, then this would certainly help reduce part of a ferry start-up costs.
From all indications, our current Prime Minister, is a great advocate for the idea, having made the following statement to a previous CARICOM Heads of Government conference in Jamaica – ‘To get the full benefit of our common space in the movement of people, cargo and vehicles, renewed and focused leadership is also called for to translate the much-studied inter-island ferry service from concept to reality. To move beyond talk and to actively encourage investment by our private sector to unlock new categories of travellers’, she said.
Looking back to previous writings, I came across one of my articles which was featured in the 2nd August 2005 edition of the informative British travel trade publication, TravelMole, calling attention to the then soon to be launched (November 2005) of easyCruise, a converted passenger ship which offered simple cabin accommodation to St. Lucia, St. Vincent and other nearby islands.
It provided not only transportation, but inexpensive overnight lodging.
The service operated for several months before EasyCruise moved the first of two ships to St. Maarten. When I asked the owner, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, (born to a wealthy ship -owning family and founder of easyJet , Stelmar Tankers and the signature bright orange painted members of the easyGroup ,he graciously responded, by explaining the costs of operating out of Barbados were too high. Last year alone, the airline division carried over 96 million passengers.
I remain convinced that the former easyCruise model could once again work for us, a combination of passengers and freight with a roll-on-roll-off vehicle facility.
I’ll leave you with the conclusion of a Caribbean Development Bank study ‘Ferry travel serves as a low cost option for domestic travel in the region, with tremendous potential for growth beyond domestic travel’.