Regional fast ferry back on agenda

Neither Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar or any official from Trinidad had attended the previous summit of Caribbean leaders at a Guyana jungle resort in mid May but she turned up at the latest heads of government conference in tiny St. Kitts and immediately declared a willingness to reinvigorate dormant plans for a commercial ferry service from Trinidad to the Eastern Caribbean islands.

Critics say that the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago’s attendance at the summit is politically significant largely because of the mixed signals that her multiparty coalition, 13-month government has been giving to the integration movement since the People’s Partnership had replaced the Patrick Manning government in general elections in May of 2010.

Back then she had basically told fellow leaders and anyone who would listen that Trinidad was not that interested playing the lead role in the 15-nation Caribbean trade bloc, and worse yet, in continuing to function and being regarded “as the ATM of the Caribbean,” a statement that led to varying interpretations in the region ranging from a perceived anti-Caricom stance to a lessening of Trinidadian interest in the region.

At the mid May retreat of Caribbean heads off Bartica in western Guyana, no one from Trinidad bothered to turn up or even offer an excuse for the non attendance of Trinidad and the summit. Officials say the government was more concerned with planning the first anniversary celebration party of the administration.

This time around she landed in Basseterre, the capital of St. Kitts and immediately declared that the time has come for the region to consider the rolling out of a fast ferry service to boost trade and tourism between Trinidad and the smaller Eastern islands.

The Manning administration had touted the idea several years ago and many thought it would have fallen by the wayside as another hair brained and ill thought out dream of the previous cabinet.

Instead she said that the fast ferry issue is a major agenda item for Trinidad as it is necessary and timely.

“One of the things I want to raise has to do with a fast ferry link within the Eastern Caribbean and T&T, which will bring us closer together as we try to improve upon the integration movement. I don’t think we’ve done enough. Such a project could assist, so it will be something we want to raise. It will cost no money to government,” she said because foreign investors will run it and simply want to use T&T as their home base. They’re looking at US$15 to go to Barbados first of all. It’s a project we can put to the heads,” she said.

At least one other private investor had toyed with the idea of an intra regional ferry service operating out of Grenada but little has been heard of it in the past year.

Persad-Bissessar also said that the idea of building an undersea gas pipeline to nearby islands will also be put back on the table of leaders.

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