Virtual briefing on regional ferry on January 23

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The Galleons Passage – Photo courtesy Kenneth Phillips

UPTURN Funds Caribbean will hold a virtual news conference on January 23 on the launch of a private-sector-led regional ferry service and a consortium to manage the service.

The company is a subsidiary of Upturn Funds, which according to its website is an impact investing firm.

The company has operations in New York, Barbados and Dubai. Some of its initiatives to date include mid-low-income housing construction in Jamaica and a pilot farming project in Aruba that involves collaboration between Aruba, Israel and the Bahamas.

The company lists Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Antigua & Barbuda, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, Dominica, Suriname and Barbados as the proposed ports of call for the ferry.

On January 4, Guyanese President Dr Mohammed Irfaan Ali said a TT-Guyana-Barbados ferry initiative was getting close to reality.

Ali made the disclosure while speaking at a contract signing 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 service had been launched on January 3.

He gave no details of 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 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 by 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, the Prime Minister 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.

At the opening of the Phoenix Park Industrial Estate in Pt Lisas on January 10, Dr Rowley said the Cabinet would approve the ferry initiative on January 11. He added that the Galleons Passage would be involved in it.

Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan confirmed this during a tour of road repairs near Macaulay overpass on January 14, saying the participation of the Galleons Passage in the TT-Guyana-Barbados ferry service will not disrupt the domestic seabridge.

He said talks are under way with Barbados on “where we are actually going to find a more suitable vessel in the long term for this venture.”

Sinanan said a company will be formed through which TT, Guyana and Barbados will run the service.