New Regional Ferry Project Launched by Private Sector Consortium Conceived at Caribbean Investment Forum

The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service

Caribbean Investment Forum brought together members of ‘Connect Caribe’ ferry consortium
‘Connect Caribe’ expects to launch a cargo and passenger ferry service in region by Q4 of 2024
Consortium aims to reduce region’s food import bill, enhance transportation, and create jobs

A private sector-led regional ferry service, set to be launched at the end of 2024, could revolutionise the way goods and people are transported around the Caribbean.

The newly-announced joint venture under the ‘Connect Caribe’ brand will initially see heavy and light cargo and agricultural produce transported around the Eastern Caribbean, before a passenger service is added on, along with additional stops throughout the region.

Led by Upturn Funds Caribbean (part of Pleion Group Inc), the consortium was established as a direct result of the company’s participation in a roundtable on transportation and logistics at the 2022 Caribbean Investment Forum (CIF) hosted by the Caribbean Export Development Agency, the European Union, and its partners.

CIF is the biggest and most prestigious investment and trade event in the region. It attracts 500-600 business delegates, stakeholders, and decision makers from around the world to connect and collaborate with regional innovators, public and private sector leaders, and entrepreneurs. In 2022 and 2023, CIF was held in Trinidad and Tobago and the Bahamas respectively. Guyana will host the event this year.

In a previous media statement, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Upturn Funds Caribbean, Ambassador Dr Andre Thomas, credited the CIF roundtable with playing “a pivotal role in shaping the outcome of the strategic partnership formed with key participants”. He added: “Great projects are like puzzles…[at CIF] we found pieces that were missing in our puzzle to deliver a transport and logistics maritime project to the Caribbean.”

Today (23 January 2024), at a press conference in Bridgetown, Ambassador Thomas, revealed further information on the multi-million dollar ferry project and outlined the importance of it to the region’s long-term economic development and empowerment.

Dr Thomas shared that the project will eventually consist of three vessels including a large ferry that will carry 800 passengers; a fast ferry capable of transporting 435 passengers; and a cargo ship that will initially service Barbados, Suriname, St Vincent, and St Lucia before expanding to other countries in the region.

He said that the standard fare is expected to be around $100 (US) for a roundtrip excluding various taxes and government charges. At least 270 jobs will be created during the first phase of the project.

Ambassador Thomas added: “We have embarked on a very important journey to bring the aspirations of regional maritime transportation from concept to a reality. When we began this journey about 18 months ago, we proceeded to read every single study that had been done on maritime transportation. We felt that if there ever was a project that would affect the lives of men and women across the Caribbean, it would be this such project…

“We had to create a consortium that would be made up of key players in different sectors of the maritime industry and also bring in an ecommerce element. So we have partnered with Windward Ferries, Ramps Logistics, JS Cruises and Tours / The Maritime Institute, and HCIS Consortium, to create this company.”

Chairman/President of JS Cruises & Tours and Chairman/President of The Maritime Institute of Barbados, Judeen Scantlebury, believes the project will “stimulate economic growth, promote tourism, and enhance connectivity between the islands.” She continued: “I believe this service has the potential to truly transform the way our people travel throughout the region.”

President of Connect Caribe’s ecommerce division, Anthony Hinkson, said the project could potentially allow for next-day delivery within the region which was not possible with the current infrastructure.

He added: “We are here to support CARICOM’s vision of a single market across our region. Within our region we have many wonderful business people, young people, entrepreneurs, and we want to help them be the best that they can be…The Connect Caribe e-shop will facilitate trade via our transport services and is a major step in seeing the global dominance of our upcoming regional brands.”

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