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Plans still on for fast ferry service

Plans still on for fast ferry service

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The much-touted fast ferry service that was expected to be churning white the waters between St Vincent and the Grenadines and other Caribbean islands is taking a while to materialize but it is coming, hopefully!{{more}}

At the 64th meeting of the Monetary Council of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) held last week in St Kitts, the Council agreed that the “member governments should pursue with urgency the matter of the Regional Ferry Service,” and Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has been asked to coordinate the effort.

Speaking at a press conference last Monday, February 16, at Cabinet Room, Dr Gonsalves told reporters that the push towards a Regional Ferry Service continues.

The Prime Minister reported that he spoke to Trinidadian Prime Minister Patrick Manning who confirmed that the Trinidad and Tobago financed study of the fast ferry service is still ongoing.

The initiative was birthed following a meeting here in May of 2007 of CARICOM’s Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), where the issue of an alternative to air travel in the wake of complains about the high cost of air transportation was raised.

Trinidad and Tobago was to conduct the feasibility study of such a service.

Dr Gonsalves again reiterated the importance of the service and said that fast ferry services will not undermine the efforts being put into strengthening air travel; the continued strengthening of LIAT, the building of the Canouan Jet Airport and the US$200 million International Airport at Argyle, currently under construction.

“There is a different market which will be generated. There are a lot of people who don’t travel at the moment a great deal but who will probably travel a great deal if you have a ferry service,” Dr Gonsalves said.

According to the official communiqué of the Monetary Council’s meeting, the Regional Fast Ferry Service is one of the initiatives identified for support from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), as they seek to identify “areas in which the IFC could assist the bank (ECCB) and by extension the region in building institutional capacity and competitiveness to facilitate growth and development.”

The IFC is a member of the World Bank Group.

Dr Gonsalves also said that support can also come from the Canadian government because the issue was raised with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper during his 2007 visit to Barbados.

The Canadian Government has indicated their intention to increase their support to the region.

Regarding the local initiatives, especially Carib Liners out of Union Island, that should have been in operation months ago, Dr Gonsalves said that the go ahead has been given to the relative government authorities and he is unsure about all the factors hindering the launch of the service.

He said that he has, however, been assured that the investors “are still very serious.”

Efforts by SEARCHLIGHT to contact

the Belgian businessman Freddie Neart, who is behind the Carib Liners project, proved futile.

In a recent interview with SEARCHLIGHT, Neart had said that the service would be operating within two months.

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