PM Keith Rowley of Trinidad and Tobago is set to make a landmark deal which will allow the nation to participate in a regional ferry service between the nations of Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and Guyana, through the use of the Galleons Passage.
Prime Minister Keith Rowley made this announcement on Wednesday while he was attending the opening of the Phoenix Park Industrial Estate in Pt Lisas.
PM Keith Rowley stated the following, while explaining the merits of this initiative, “Only recently you would have heard of the closing of discussions and readiness to establish a regional cargo ferry service between Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados. This is a decision which is driven by the need to move raw materials and fresh produce from the producing areas to the consumption and manufacturing areas within this sub-zone of Caricom (TT, Guyana, Barbados).”
Rowley went on to say the following while highlighting the immense economic benefits of this decision, “The outcome of such a transportation service can only improve our food security, stimulate production across the region, create jobs and support affordable prices of the many agricultural products, which we desire at our tables and in our hotels.”
Keith Rowley also stated with confidence that the nation’s cabinet would sign off on the decision on Thursday during its regular meeting. This is a sign of the fact that the decision has been fast tracked, owing to the economic benefit that it is expected to bring to Trinidad and Tobago and the region on the whole.
Following the cabinet’s approval, the Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan will undertake the task of ensuring that the Galleons Passage is prepared in the appropriate manner to become a part of this system.
Although the Galleons Passage is classified as a Catamaran RoRo passenger ferry, according to Lloyd’s Register Rules and Regulations for Classification of Special Service Craft, following its commissioning on the 8th of October, 2018, it will now be repurposed appropriately to perform its new duties.
The vessel has the ability to hold 400 passengers and 60 cars, while also boasting of a cafeteria, a bar and a VIP lounge as well, making it well equipped and comfortable. Additionally, it is also one of the five vessels in total, which includes the APT James, APT Buccoo Reef, TT Spirit and the Cabo Star that have been deployed on the domestic sea bridge.
The Galleons Passage’s first voyage between Trinidad and Tobago in October 2018 was seen by many as the perfect solution to the issues being faced at the sea bridge.
Sinanan had this to say on the matter, “I am confident all the challenges on the sea bridge are over now that we have three vessels operating efficiently to transport cargo and passengers daily. I am more confident that things will only get better now that we have the acquisition for two new fast ferry vessels, and we are currently looking at procuring a third vessel so we can replace the older ones. We can now work on rebuilding that confidence in the sea bridge.”
The other two ships that Sinanan spoke about were the Cabo Star and TT Spirit and together, the three vessels were the only ones which were being utilized at the sea bridge.
In 2021, though, the situation was remedied somewhat by the addition of the APT James and the Buccoo Reef. One of the most significant issues faced would occur when one of the vessels was either dry-docked for maintenance purposes or experienced a mechanical problem.
An example of a difficult situation was when the Caboo Star was rendered inoperable due to a fire in August, which put the vessel out of action till September. This led to a situation in which the Galleons Passage, APT James and Buccoo Reef were called in to handle the task of transporting cargo.
Following the eruption of the La Soufriere Volcano, the Galleons Passage was employed to provide aid to St Vincent and the Grenadines in the form of TTDF troops and relief supplies in April 2021. The vessel was also used to extract Trinidad and Tobago nationals who were residing in St Vincent, thus serving a dual purpose.
President Irfaan Ali of Guyana was responsible for publicly stating that the TT-Guyana-Barbados ferry initiative would become operational in the near future on the 4th of January. He added that a company was launched on the 3rd of January with the express purpose of ensuring the establishment of the ferry service.
He refrained from giving any details about the company itself but clarified that the three nations involved in this initiative were discussing the venture in detail and leaving no stone unturned in a bid to make the endeavour a success.
President Ali explained that the three nations were focusing on establishing the initiative, following which they would shift their attention to expanding it to its full potential.
Prime Minister Keith Rowley stated the following during a CARICOM meeting which brought various Heads of Government to Suriname in July of 2022, explaining why the regional ferry service was such an important initiative for his nation and the region, “If you really want to help Caricom, one of the best things you could do is help the team of governments to fund and have operating, within the Caricom region, vessels of that nature so as to bring our people together by seas