New inter-Caribbean ferry service to complement Gov’ts’ planned regional transport system
By Lazeena Yearwood
Private sector-led efforts to create a regional transport system interconnecting Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states have given life to a new ferry service – Connect Caribe – promising not only passenger movement but the shipment of cargo.
Company executives, on Tuesday, announced the plans to commission three vessels for this purpose.
And though the support of respective regional governments was noted, this new private sector-led venture is completely separate from the ongoing work by the governments of Guyana, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) to commence a new ferry service among the three Caribbean states.
And if all goes according to plans, the three vessels under Connect Caribe will be dedicated to weekly and daily round trips, connecting to Barbados, St Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent, Grenada, Dominica, Antigua, Suriname, and Guyana.
The vessels will have the capacity to transport up to 8,000 passengers, cargo and manufactured goods and produce.
During a press conference on Tuesday, CEO of Caribbean Isreal Finance (CIF) and UN Peace Ambassador Andre Thomas said the services that Connect Caribe will provide complement the proposed project by the Governments of Guyana, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.
Recently President Dr Irfaan Ali announced that a new company will solve the intra-regional transportation woes. Thomas said similarly, Connect Caribe is the private sector response to these challenges which involves several companies including Ramps Logistics, J&S Cruises and Tours and UPTURN FUNDS New York.
“We are in talks with the governments… there is a significant discussion on how we can integrate and tackle this huge opportunity and problem. I believe that where there are problems there are opportunities. There will be significant collaboration between the service that will be done by the governments and our service,” Thomas said.
This first phase of the estimated US$50 million project is expected to come on stream during the last quarter of 2024 and will later be expanded to new island routes in the Caribbean Sea.
Job creation is factored into the response to the region’s shipment issues and according to Thomas and his team, there will be room for employment at warehouses and on the vessels. The first phase alone will see some 270 persons being employed.
Tore Torsteinson, the CEO of Windward Ferries Limited is part of the consortium of Caribbean private sector partners pioneering this project and given his background in traveling this route, he deemed this a great initiative for the first phase of the project.
“The three ships will serve the region well as traders, travelers and cargo to be a fast and efficient way to get around.
“Shippers of cargo will appreciate the frequent and quick transit time,” the Windward Ferries Limited CEO said.
This company not only responds to the need for quick trips by sea across the Caribbean but also provides a realistic pathway for businesses to get their products across the region.
It involves an E-commerce division that will oversee the network for farmers, businesses, and manufacturers etc. to sell products to customers from any part of the region.
“We are going to be the E-commerce marketplace for the region. Our goal is to facilitate economic transformation within our region by creating this market place which will allow our users to build e-commerce businesses by local, regional, and extra-regional sales,” the President of the E-Commerce Division at Connect Caribe, Anthony Hinkson said.
He said using this service, the users can have same-day delivery or within three to five business days considering the country it is being exported from.