A fast ferry service between the Eastern Caribbean islands is soon to start sailing.
This was revealed by Trinidad and Tobago Transport Minister Devant Maharaj who told a post Cabinet news conference at the Diplomatic Centre, Port of Spain recently that the company managing the service, Fast Caribbean Ltd., has agreed to provide 100,000 seats per year at a special price of $10 a ticket but the average price for citizens of T&T would be between $25 and $35 a seat.
The ferry will also transport goods.
Maharaj said a Cabinet appointed team is in negotiations with the company to set up the ferry service.
He stressed that the initiative was a private sector one and that government would be putting no cash in the service.
He said the fast ferry proposal, which the team would be reviewing proposes to launch the service in 2012 and it would be based in Port of Spain.
Phase one of the service, he said, would offer trips to the islands of Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia and Barbados.
Maharj said Fast Caribbean Ltd, Barbados-based consortium, will charter from owners Montrose Global a 112-meter wave piercing catamaran similar to those operating on the Trinidad to Tobago route.
The minister said a minimum capital start up of $12 million was required for the service.
But he noted that the private sector team was proposing to raise $20 million.
The catamaran would leave Port of Spain at 6:00 a.m. and arrive in Barbados (the last stop on its route at 6:00 p.m.)
Maharaj said once commercially viable in phase one of the project, additional routes will be added.
Foreign Affairs Minister Suruj Rambachan said the ferry would help promote tourism, while Trade and Industry Minister Stephen Cadiz said it would bring cheaper freight charges for business in the region.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar first announced its intention to have a ferry service linking Trinidad and Tobago and the Eastern Caribbean in September last year and invited proposals from suitable investors in October 2011.
Five companies responded and Fast Ferry Caribbean Ltd was selected.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has welcomed the plan for a ferry service to the four southern Caribbean islands.
He said he does not see the initiative competing with either Caribbean Airlines Ltd or Liat, However, he said it provides an opportunity for the discussion on one Caribbean air carrier.