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But wait, we do have ferries! Indeed we do, there are 11 ferry companies currently in the Eastern Caribbean, operating a total of 21 boats; from Antigua in the north down to Trinidad. These range from old, slow cargo vessels to large, modern fast roll-on roll-off (Ro-Ro) ships that accommodate passengers, cars and trucks. With all these ferries, if there is this crying need for inter-island ferry services, why don’t more ferry companies offer cross-border services?
“It’s a nightmare!” say the ferry operators; with regard to the bureaucracy – and cost – involved in taking a commercial vessel from one island to another. Only one company, L’Express des Iles out of Martinique, operates across international borders. All the other ferries stick within their national boundaries: Trinidad to Tobago; Grenada to Carriacou; St. Vincent to the Grenadines, etc. L’Express has successfully expanded from the French territories Martinique and Guadeloupe to the nearby islands of Dominica and Saint Lucia; both of which have a strong French presence.
The problem stems from the archaic, cumbersome rules regulating international marine trading in the Caribbean. These rules desperately need to be simplified and harmonized so that all regional jurisdictions will be literally reading from the same book.
Ferries are for short distances. People are not going to go from Trinidad to Saint Kitts by ferry – unless they have a lot of time on their hands. Realistically, ferry voyages should be no more than about 4 to 5 hours duration; unless they are overnight. And you also have to take account of sea conditions. Hence, it is not feasible to consider a ferry route between Trinidad and Barbados; otherwise the boat would earn the same nickname as one Tobago ferry: the vomit comet!
It surely would be advantageous to have a chain of ferries, if not one. So that Islanders/Tourists could simply go between two Islands, or maybe progressively go up the chain. The air fares are horrendous, and likely to get worse if for example St Lucia imposes the landing tax it intends for international travellers.
One of my Airline flight providers announced a £60 tax to be levied by St Lucia... not Dollars, but POUNDS.
This if for Airport improvements. Let one Island reap the benefits of a rip off tax, and they will all want some.
Air fares are already extortionate between the Islands.