The Government of Barbados is exploring establishing a ferry system to move people and cargo from coast to coast.
Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey pointed to the movement of cargo from Oistins in Christ Church all the way to the north of the island as a long held vision of his. He also spoke about his desire to see service expand even further.
According to Minister Humphrey, “We have now an expression of interest out to encourage those who have the wherewithal to help us build out those jetties from the north all the way to the south and move cargo along the coastline, and also think bigger, and move between the islands.”
“Ferry travel serves as a low-cost option for domestic travel in the region, with tremendous potential for growth beyond domestic travel.”– Caribbean Development Bank study
He said the Government of Barbados sees the need for a “nicely built and stabilised” ferry that could move great containers and people and is determined to make it happen. Pointing to the lessons learnt from the aftermath of past disasters, Humphrey indicated that getting food into the island chain was almost impossible.
“The Caribbean should not be in a position where it is waiting on someone to come and save us. That is why it is necessary to have the ferries,” the Minister marked, making reference to the difficulties experienced in getting planes into Dominica after the passage of Hurricane Maria.
Minister Humphrey pointed out that investing in ferries would also benefit the country, as the costs could be “recouped” in shipping, and assist with reducing export costs. Barbados Prime Minister, Mia Mottley has been a long proponent of a regional ferry service.
In her first address to a CARICOM Heads of Government conference, as Prime Minister last year, Mottley said, “To get the full benefit of our common space in the movement of people, cargo and vehicles, renewed and focussed 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 travelers.”
She spoke about a modern and much more efficient version of the type of ferry that plied the Caribbean, moving people and boosting trade among the territories up to the early years after independence of these nations. Her frequent talk about resumption of a people transport service on the high seas among these sprinkling of islands is backed by a Caribbean Development Bank study that states, “Ferry travel serves as a low-cost option for domestic travel in the region, with tremendous potential for growth beyond domestic travel.”
The study noted that an effective intra-island ferry network throughout the region may ease many constraints facing regional air transportation.
“Air transport in the region poses a significant financial burden, and passengers are inconvenienced by irregular connections between countries. Improving marine passenger transport can also assist the region in becoming more attractive as a tourism destination, given that tourists may be inclined to do Caribbean tours similar to the ‘backpackers’ of Europe,” the study reasoned.