Regional ferry service “still in planning stage” – Pres. Ali

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana

The details surrounding the much-anticipated regional ferry service between Guyana, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago are still being ironed out, according to President Dr Irfaan Ali.

Earlier this month, the Guyanese Leader announced the establishment of this new service, which is expected to push trade and people movement in the southern Caribbean.

Last week, it was reported that the Trinidad and Tobago Cabinet had approved the use of that country’s Galleons Passage vessel to operate the ferry service with the twin-island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana.

“On Thursday [January 11, 2024], the Cabinet will sign off on this decision; and only this morning, the Minister of Transportation was told to ready the Galleons Passage for the inaugural trip as soon as that documentation is ready and the vessel is ready,” Trinidadian Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley had announced last Wednesday.

In a Facebook post on Sunday, President Ali shared several photos of the Galleons Passage, which he said would be operating between Guyana and Trinidad, and later Barbados. This vessel can accommodate 400 passengers and 60 cars. Among the facilities onboard the Galleons Passage is a cafeteria, a bar, and a VIP lounge.

This publication  subsequently reached out to the Guyanese Head of State to enquire whether a date has been set for the first trip, and for an update on the ferry company that is to be set up between the three countries.

President Ali indicated that these details are “still in the planning stage.”

On January 5, the Guyanese Leader disclosed that Guyana, T&T and Barbados have formed a joint company that would work towards the introduction of a ferry system for passenger and cargo between the three countries.

“That would open up massive opportunities,” Ali had stated.

Back in May 2022, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago had embarked on setting up a ferry service between the two countries to transport people and cargo.

During a joint press conference between President Ali and Prime Minister Rowley in Georgetown, the two nations had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for co-operation in a number of areas.

“As we speak to you now, we are already exploring the possibility of having a cargo-plus-ferry facility as an experiment between Guyana and Trinidad, moving people and goods and services… We cannot address any issues unless we create a platform, the vehicle that will allow us to do that, and this MoU does that,” President Ali had noted.

Meanwhile, regional leaders have long recognized that affordable intra-regional travel remains one of the major bugbears to trade and movement of skilled labour within the Caribbean. Consequently, they have been working on a regional ferry network.

In 2022, the Caribbean Community (Caricom) had approached the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for funding to establish this intra-regional ferry service. At the time, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) was tasked with ironing out a proposed roadmap study for a fast ferry service with an initial focus on trade between Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, and Barbados.

According to a communiqué at the end of the 43rd Regular Meeting of the Caricom Heads of Government Meeting, held in July 2022 in Suriname, it was noted that this initiative falls into the myriad of measures agreed to by the Region’s leaders to advance reduction of the Caribbean’s food-import bill by 25 per cent by the year 2025.

During that Caricom meeting, the Heads of States were updated on the advanced discussions with the UAE for both a traditional ferry and fast ferry service for the Region.The meeting saw the agreement for the establishment of a working group to provide oversight of the project, which will include representatives from the Governments of Barbados, Grenada, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago, as well as the Caricom Secretariat, Caricom Private Sector Organisation (CPSO), and the CDB.

However, a subsequent document prepared by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has identified four potential routes for an intra-regional ferry service in the Eastern Caribbean Region. Guyana was named in only one of those proposed routes. That route – Guyana, Suriname and T&T – was named the most viable option by Associate Economic Affairs Officer of ECLAC’s Infrastructure Services Unit in the International Trade and Integration Division, Diogo Aita, who prepared the proposal.