The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not represent the opinions or editorial position of I-Witness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to news.iwitness@gmail.com

Several of the ferry boats in SVG are little more than old tubs, fit only for the scrap yard. I can imagine what a difficult business it must be to earn a profit from the Bequia run alone. I think that even that run, for some of those ferries, is a run too far.

I have sailed many times on the Bequia car ferries when, because of the numbers of vehicles, the loading ramp is only partially up. That procedure is what has caused the loss of several ferries in Europe and elsewhere. A ferry sank on the English to France channel crossing when vehicles and passengers were lost, the vessel was inundated with sea water through the partially lowered loading ramp. The ferry operators are aware of this problem yet still do it.

About 12 years ago, an underwriter friend at Lloyds of London and Grenadine visitor, informed me that one a ferry operator had stopped renewing their Insurance cover that covered passenger and vehicle liability. He said they had refused to pay the increased rates. I just hope that the Government picked up on that, and that situation no longer exists.

In August 2008, a new ferry service was announced to commencing service in that year. It was to be called “Caribbean Rose” and was to originate in Trinidad. There was an article that said the ferry had arrived from Canada to be “outfitted” and would travel a route to include St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Barbados. Since then I haven’t found any additional information. So obviously, someone’s brilliant idea was scrapped.

In January 2012, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister St. Vincent and the Grenadines, announced plans by Trinidad’s Transport Minister, Devant Maharaj, to fast track the regional ferry service between this country and four southern Caribbean islands.

The service was projected to be launched in 2012 and was to be based in Port-of-Spain and extend in its First Phase to Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Lucia and Barbados.

The service was to cater to foot passengers as well as vehicles and containerised and break-bulk cargo. The operating company proposed to offer 100,000 seats a year with the average price of a seat ranging between US$25 and US$35.

Of course once the PM announced this service it was jinxed with the kiss of death, it never happened.

Then a very brave man decided to buy a fast ferry. If it was a car, it would be described as a “gas guzzler”. But that is the problem with all fast ferries, they use copious amounts of fuel and have a very high maintenance cost.

The fast ferry currently in service is a passenger ferry only, no facility for cars or trucks. Built like an aircraft it skims through the seas at a maximum speed of 34 knots.

I think if we want to keep the fast ferry service, the Government should consider paying towards the operating cost of say EC$500,000 a year. That would encourage and support the operator in staying in what is currently a loss making business. Otherwise there is a more than a good possibility that we will lose this service.

When you consider the government is willing to give LIAT $20 million a year $500,000 a year is a small amount to protect our water transported tourism sector.

I think for the good of the ferry services in SVG waters, for the good of the citizens, for the good of tourism, all approved ferry services should receive some form of financial help. I am talking about cash help, I am aware that as a concession the ferry companies pay no tax on their earnings and no import duty on replacement vessels, but there are virtually no profits anyway not to pay tax on.

Thank you, ferry operators, for your dedication to SVG’s tourism, the Grenadine folk and movement of school children and the infirm.

Peter Binose

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to news.iwitness@gmail.com.

6 replies on “The ferry service of SVG and beyond”

  1. Well said Peter, I was in Vincy in April and took the ferry to Bequia, me and my wife, and remember telling her than it burns a lot of fuel, although they throttle it back to try and save fuel, I am sure the fuel burn is still massive. If it is failing they should subsidize the fast ferry, I couldn’t imagine going on admiral to Bequia, after such a smooth ride.

  2. There are many,many issues going on. The fast ferry service that was to run between countries was shot down by governments because it was too big of a threat to Liat. Inter island ferry service has been a loosing operation forever. Mustique just bought their own ferry and they don’t have to deal with anyone else that way. Where are the hydrofoils? Fast, efficient,affordable in comparison. Those ferries by the way, don’t carry life boats either. Bequia is in a strange position as they always have their hand out to the motherland for their infrastructure but don’t want to participate in any other respect.

  3. SMOKEY, I believe the reason that we do not use hydrofoils is twofold, because there is a lot of floating debris in our waters and also they do not like huge waves followed by huge troughs.

    At 50 knots hydrofoil and debris collisions can cause the loss of a foil lift plane which would cause the craft to tumble and perhaps break up, its like an aircraft hitting the water in an uncontrolled landing.

    Foilborne operations become limited as wave height exceeds the hydrofoil’s strut length. Hydrofoils are designed to have a 50-knot speed capability in calm water.

    Of course hydrofoils can be used like a traditional boat if the foils are kept retracted, but they are smaller boats and that defeats the object of trying to carry good numbers of passengers and luggage at great speeds through our Atlantic ocean affected water which are frequently rough and big waters.

    When I was managing a large corporation in Europe I often used to travel on a hydrofoil between St. Malo and the Chanell Islands, very often it was cancelled because of extremely rough seas, other ferries kept working. But when the seas were calm the ride was spectacular.

  4. Peter if Jaden sun is experiencing financial problem they have themself to blame.Peter, the thing with capitalism is that it make people greedy,jaden sun became greedy.When jaden sun start opperation they start off charging $60.00 from Canouan to St vincent,diesel price went up by about 1.85 they carry their price to $65.00 then they carry it to $75.00 now its $90.00.Jaden sun had the market and they abused it,paying $60.00 with the convience of speed and confort most folks stop taking the other feries only using them for their cargo,Jaden sun realise they had the market so with knowing that and along with the increase in diesel price they carry up their price.At first most folks did not mind paying an exrta $5.00,so we continue travaling with them,diesel price did not increse this time but they carry their price to $75.00.Most folke decide they are not going to pay 75.00 so they stop traveling with jaden sun and start taking Barracuda and Jem Star again.Jemstar and barracuda have lots of issues but we prefer to travel with them than paying $90.00,$180.00 return with Jaden sun.Its not easy spending all those hours on the sea with Barracuda and jem star but we have no choice.I personely stop traveling with jaden sun because of their price and not spending enought time in port always rushing people,some time you have to waite until their next voyage to get you stuff.Peter I dont think the owners of jaden sun would invest in a business knowing they would not make a profit,those people are in the ferry business for donkey years they just greedy.

  5. It will only take one incident, where a tourist is injured or dies for all of St. Vincent’s economy to suffer.

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