The ferry service provided by Island Escape between Antigua and the sister isle, Barbuda, will no longer be available beginning next week.
The luxury 150-passenger ferry will depart for the British Virgin Islands to service the route between St Thomas and Tortola with the return of the cruise ships there.
The ferry’s contractual agreement to transport construction workers during 2020 for the Peace, Love and Happiness (PLH) project on Barbuda has ended and the owner said he simply can’t keep up with the cost of operation.
The ferry’s contract with PLH had already been reduced from six days to three days as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mark Rosandich, who owns five other vessels, said without PLH’s subsidy to continue to operate in Barbuda, the economic numbers will not support his vessel, with his biggest cost being fuel.
“Going into January of this year we tried to continue working on our own without the PLH money but I lost tens of thousands of dollars because I can’t move a boat of that size with 10 people on it,” he admitted.
Rosandich said the decision to leave Antigua was a difficult one but he could no longer take on more financial loss.
He explained that fuel in Antigua from the West Indies Oil Company at a retail price is almost US$3 a gallon more than what he pays in St Thomas.
“While I love Antigua, I love the people, I think it’s a great route, I think I can grow it but I’m unprepared to continue to lose the kind of money that I was losing monthly to wait it out – I just ran out of time,” he told Observer.
He explained that without the PLH charter subsidy, without duty-free fuel and importation of supplies and spare parts, it is economically impossible to support a ferry the size, speed and nature of the “Island Escape” or any other which may follow in its wake.
The ferry employed eight people including ticketing agents, the boat crew and the general manager.