Shipping agency, Crowley, has told Observer that it will continue to operate in some Caribbean countries, just not those in the Leeward Islands.
The company’s Director of Corporate Communications, David DeCamp, told Observer that only islands in the Leeward part of the region will be affected by the sudden discontinuation of its services.
According to DeCamp, “Crowley continues to serve the Caribbean region, as it consistently has for 50 years, including but not limited to the USVI, BVI, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and more. However, the Leeward Islands, including Antigua and Barbuda, will not be served after the end of October.”
This change will also affect Anguilla, St Kitts & Nevis, Saba, St. Barts, St Eustatius and Montserrat.
Service between PEV, St. Thomas and the Leeward Islands will be discontinued, with the final departure from Port Everglades on October 30, 2021.
Service between Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands will also be discontinued, with the final departure from San Juan on October 24.
The Director of Corporate Communications however denied that the pullout was as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic as stated by Port Manager, Darwin Telemaque, during an interview on state TV.
Decamp said “Covid-19 has not resulted in any material service disruptions,” but he stopped short of naming the reasons for their exit in this part of the region.
Nonetheless, Telemaque remained optimistic that there are viable options available to Antigua and Barbuda with closer connectivity in South America.
He said in the interviews that they have started looking at Brazil for some lumber products and a large supply of chicken.
“We’ve never looked really at Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Ecuador and all these countries. So now, since they are closer to us, we may need to start looking at whether those options are viable to sustain us,” he added.
But simply wanting to trade with these countries is not enough., he remarked, explaining that “It’s a real challenge, if you look to the South for help, you have no connectivity from the South and so the real issue in determining your supply route, is not even your desire to shift, it is the pattern of transportation that can make the delivery happen, and Antigua and the region are in a very vulnerable position based on the fact that we can’t control the route.”
Telemaque suggested reviewing the Caribbean’s transportation needs that would allow Antigua and Barbuda to maximise on recent port development which includes the establishment of a dedicated container terminal.
He said that it’s the only single harbour in the Eastern Caribbean where five cruise ships can be berthed alongside three full-sized container ships working simultaneously.
Countries in the Leewards Islands he said will also need to review how their authorities manage and facilitate business at their ports.