New regional ferry tipped to boost tourism, travel and trade

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(Left to right) Jennifer Highland, Judeen Scantlebury, Ambassador Dr Andre Thomas, Brandon Mohammed, Anthony Hinkson—some of the top executives leading the charge for a new regional ferry service, Connect Caribe, speaking at yesterday’s conference in Barbados (Screenshot)
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By Robert A Emmanuel

[email protected]

A consortium of companies and experts from across the region is hoping to transform the Caribbean’s transport industry landscape with a new regional ferry service they hope to have off the ground by the end of the year.

Connect Caribe is tipped to enhance tourism, along with the free movement of Caribbean people and goods in the region.

The company’s executives held a press conference at the Wisdom Centre Auditorium in Barbados yesterday to explain to reporters the details of the project.

“We are marking the inception of a company that embodies the spirit of connectivity, accessibility and progress,” Chief Communications Consultant Jennifer Highland said.

The consortium behind the service includes Upturn Funds—the venture capital arm of the Pleion Group Inc—Windward Ferries Ltd, Ramps Logistics, Anthony Hinkson Consultancy Services, and JS Cruises and Tours.

It is expected that Antigua and Barbuda, St Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Dominica, Suriname, and Guyana will serve as the main ferry routes. The hope is that people will be charged a standard fare of around US$100, excluding any individual government fees and charges.

Chairman and CEO of the company, Dr Andre Thomas, says that the company will operate three vessels in its initial stage, including a cruise passenger vessel with a capacity of 800 people with 200 first-class rooms, and a vessel with a 435-person capacity.

“This new ferry service is poised to bring a multitude of benefits to each island in the region; not only will it provide reliable and efficient transportation for both locals and tourists, but it will also stimulate economic growth, promote tourism and enhance connectivity between the islands,” said Judeen Scantlebury, President of the company’s Travel Division.

Meanwhile, a cargo vessel will also be part of the initial rollout with a route covering Guyana, Barbados, Suriname, and St Lucia initially, seeking to boost the export of regionally-made goods across the Caribbean, potentially reducing food and commodity prices.

Anthony Hickson, President of the E-Commerce Division, noted that there were two main issues affecting the free movement of goods: product awareness and product transport.

“Even when we are aware of goods that are produced in other territories, the cost of transporting those goods from one territory to another can at times be either prohibitive in terms of cost, or prohibitive in terms of time by which we can get those goods into a country.

“Connect Caribe is addressing these problems through the combination of our e-commerce platform, connecting e-shops with the timely and cost-effective cargo transport capacity of our inter-island ferries,” Hickson explained.

Ramps Logistics’ Brandon Mohammed said his company will be managing the cargo division. He further shared that if there is a way to connect people with regional goods and commodity, it would become easier to “further integrate with a global supply chain to gain more access to goods and services to build a better quality of life”.

He added that the company will keep an initial fluid approach to any outcomes or objectives that it hoped to achieve in the first phase of their operation.

“We may have to keep the routes fluid, in that what we have in mind right now and planned may change as the months go by, where we see growth in some of the businesses and the types of cargo that will be transported between the islands,” Mohammed said.

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