Trinidad and Tobago to sign Barbados, Guyana ferry deal – NEW PASSAGE FOR GALLEONS

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The Galleons Passage – Photo courtesy Kenneth Phillips

THE Prime Minister said Trinidad and Tobago will participate in a regional ferry service with Guyana and Barbados, utilising the Galleons Passage as one of the vessels.

Dr Rowley made the announcement at the opening of the Phoenix Park Industrial Estate in Pt Lisas on Wednesday.

“Only recently you would have heard of the closing of discussions and a readiness to establish a regional cargo ferry service between Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados,” Rowley said.

“This is a decision which is driven by the need to move raw materials and fresh produce from the producing areas to the consumption and manufacturing areas within this sub-zone of Caricom (TT, Guyana, Barbados).”

He saw economic benefits arising out of this initiative.

“The outcome of such a transportation service can only improve our food security, stimulate production across the region, create jobs and support affordable prices of the many agricultural products, which we desire at our tables and in our hotels.”

Rowley said, “Tomorrow, Thursday, the Cabinet (at its regular weekly meeting) will sign off on this issue.”

He added that once this happens, Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan has been advised to make the Galleons Passage ready to participate in this system.

Commissioned on October 8, 2018, the Galleons Passage is classified as a Catamaran RoRo passenger ferry, according to Lloyd’s Register Rules and Regulations for Classification of Special Service Craft.

The vessel can accommodate 400 passengers and 60 cars. Onboard facilities include a cafeteria, a bar and a VIP lounge.

The Galleons Passage is one of five vessels used on the domestic seabridge.

The others are the APT James, APT Buccoo Reef, TT Spirit and the Cabo Star.

When the Galleons Passage first sailed between Trinidad and Tobago in October 2018, Sinanan was confident that the vessel would end woes on the seabridge.

“I am confident all the challenges on the sea bridge are over now that we have three vessels operating efficiently to transport cargo and passengers daily. I am more confident that things will only get better now that we have the acquisition for two new fast ferry vessels, and we are currently looking at procuring a third vessel so we can replace the older ones. We can now work on rebuilding that confidence in the sea bridge.”

In 2018, the Cabo Star and TT Spirit were the only other vessels operating on the domestic seabridge.

They were joined later by the APT James and the Buccoo Reef in 2021.

Problems have occurred periodically on the seabridge when any of the vessels either experienced mechanical problems or were drydocked for maintenance.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley speaks at Eteck’s Phoenix Park Industrial Estate’s opening on January 10. – Photo by Lincoln Holder

A fire last August on the Cabo Star took it out of commission until September, disrupting regular cargo shipments to Tobago. The Venezuelan vessel Emprendadora replaced the Cabo Star on the seabridge during that period.

The Galleons Passage, APT James and Buccoo Reef also assisted in transporting cargo while the Cabo Star was out of service.

In April 2021, the Galleons Passage transported TTDF troops and relief supplies to St Vincent and the Grenadines to provide humanitarian and relief assistance following the eruption of the La Soufriere Volcano.

The ferry also evacuated TT nationals who were residents of St Vincent.

Should the Galleons Passage be one of the vessels being used in the TT-Guyana-Barbados ferry service, it remains to be seen how often it will be used there, if it will still operate on the seabridge or if another ferry will take its place.

On January 4, Guyana President Dr Mohammed Irfaan Ali disclosed that the TT-Guyana-Barbados ferry initiative was getting close to reality.

Ali made the disclosure while speaking at a contract signing event for a new US$35 million Mackenzie/Wismar Bridge in the Upper Demerara- Berbice district, Guyana, on that day.

An online news report said Ali said a company to facilitate the establishment of this ferry was launched on January 3.

No details were given about the company.

Ali said the three governments were still discussing the venture.

“We have to get this going and then we have to work on expanding.”

Subsequently, Foreign and Caricom Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne said no such company has been formed yet.

Browne added that all three governments should have more to say on this issue within the next month.

Intra-regional transportation has been an issue that Caricom has been dealing with for many years.

Last year, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) announced it would finance the consultancy services for a study on the options available to establish a new shipping service across Barbados, Grenada, Guyana, and TT.

Last October, when the AfriCaribbean Trade and Investment Forum was held in Guyana, Ali said the African Export-Import (Afrexim) Bank is keen on supporting a Caribbean private sector proposal for an intra-regional system that could allow the cheaper transportation of goods and people via the sea.

He encouraged regional private sector players, at that time, to form a consortium and get the project going.

At a Caricom heads of government meeting in Suriname in July 2022, Rowley expressed support for an inter-regional ferry service.

“If you really want to help Caricom, one of the best things you could do is help the team of governments to fund and have operating, within the Caricom region, vessels of that nature so as to bring our people together by seas.”

The idea of a ferry service between TT and Guyana was discussed during the three-day Agri Investment Forum in Guyana from May 19-21, 2022.

The issue was one of several in a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed at that forum between TT and Guyana.

At that time, UWI economist Dr Vaalmiki Arjoon said Port of Spain’s port could be used by Guyana’s private sector, especially manufacturers, as a transshipment hub. Raw materials and equipment imported by Guyana could be delivered to Port of Spain and then transported to Guyana on smaller vessels.

Arjoon added, “Guyana is also regarded as Brazil’s gateway to the Caribbean. Exports from Brazil to the region via Guyana can go through our port as a transshipment venue.”

On Wednesday, Rowley also said TT is pursuing other economic initiatives within Caricom.

This, he continued, is evident through the recent appointment of commercial attaches in Guyana and Jamaica.

Rowley said, “This will assist exporters in overcoming trade barriers, entering new markets, and forging new business relationships in their respective markets.”

He added, “Our bilateral partners within Caricom and extra-regionally are also very important as we seek to further develop our economy and our people.”