Notes From The Margin

January 29, 2008

The State Of Shipping In The Caribbean

We on the margin have for a long time been supporters of the idea of ferries in the Caribbean. In our view one of the most serious barriers to regional integration and the creation of a single market and economy, is the sheer difficulty faced by an individual attempting to move around the Caribbean. Moving people and goods from island to island is hugely difficult, and that has several knock on effects in the economies of the region.

In Europe it is possible to drive on to a ferry in Scotland and be in Ireland a couple of hours later driving YOUR car on Irish roads, all for the price of a ferry fare. It is possible to ship container loads of merchandise/products/food/whatever on the same ferry without even taking them off of the truck! When you contrast this ease of movement with the situation in the Caribbean it’s pathetic.

Move a car? Sorry you only have one seat on LIAT (world’s most expensive low cost carrier) and 50lbs of baggage, and when we get to our destination we are greeted by Immigration officers and Customs Officer who seem to have difficulty with the concept of people wanting to travel to another island. There was a brief moment of hope during the Cricket World Cup when we had the single space, but that seems to have separated back into the default position of fragmentation.

President of the CDB Prof. Compton Bourne, touched on these issues recently in a speech where he highlighted the difficulty in moving goods from areas with excess productive capacity to areas with demand for those goods.

“There are countries in the region that have considerable food production capacity, but their arrangements for trade in the region are far
from adequate.”

This made it very difficult to supply the markets that are experiencing shortages or to provide a cheaper source of commodities to those markets with the existing arrangements, he argued.

“First of all, shipping is very poor within the region,” he charged. “Our shipping arrangements are largely geared towards bringing commodities from outside the region to the region, rather than moving commodities between the various islands and countries in the Caribbean.

“Secondly, our port facilities in the main for CARICOM trade are atrocious, often under-staffed, often not provided with the requisite phyto-sanitary inspection facilities and sometimes characterised
by a bit of hostility towards the trade. . . .”

For the single market and economy to become a reality, there needs to be ease of trade, and ease of travel, at the moment it is easier to get items out of a furniture store in Miami than it is to get it from a furniture manufacturer in Guyana. To speak of a single economic space is a farce unless this situation is rectified.



  1. […] post by notesfromthemargin and software by Elliott […]

    Pingback by » The State Of Shipping In The Caribbean — January 29, 2008 @ 6:47 pm | Reply

  2. […] Notes from the Margin argues for an inter-island Caribbean ferry service. “Moving people and goods from island to island is hugely difficult….” Share […]

    Pingback by Global Voices Online » Barbados: Bring on the ferries — January 31, 2008 @ 11:10 am | Reply

  3. I find a listing for Fast Ferry Service from Barbados to the Rest of the Caribbean.

    ROK Ferries is in Barbados, are they legitimate or real, are they in service.

    Same for Palm Ferries based in Antigua wanting to do Inter Island Hopping using INCAT Catamaran ferry using 400,500,900 passenger ferries. They want to operate to Dominica. What is the deal with ROK or Palm Ferries? Legit or fraud

    Here is the link

    Also Palm Ferries, can’t find any info on them!

    Any help wpuld be appreciated.

    ROK Ferries Barbados

    Rok Ferries
    2 Tudor Street
    West Indies
    Tel:1(246) 257 9983

    Comment by Dominica — February 9, 2008 @ 2:13 pm | Reply

  4. We’re not aware of this service, it’s late on Saturday evening as we type this so we’ll check the number for you on Monday morning during business hours. If anyone has any experience with ROK or Palm please feel free to chime in.


    Comment by notesfromthemargin — February 9, 2008 @ 10:54 pm | Reply

  5. We called the number indicated but we got a message “incoming calls to that number have been restricted” It would appear to be a cell phone.

    It would seem that we are no further forward.

    Comment by notesfromthemargin — February 27, 2008 @ 9:24 am | Reply

  6. it appears, based on what is written on the website that rok ferries was something that they considered implementing only for the cricket world cup. However that did not come to pass. If you look at the properties of the web page you will note that it was last modified on Friday, June 16, 2006 11:19:56 AM (A long time ago) and that the page expires Tuesday, April 29, 2008 2:30:58 PM (soon).
    I keep monitoring the palm ferries thing. First they said that they would be starting in either November or October. That did not come to pass. When i went to St Lucia for Christmas i went to Mendes shipping and they said that they have not heard anyword from them. They Recently put up on their website, similar to what they did in november that they would definitely be starting in February and would have a press release soon. … However there has been no such thing So Far.

    Comment by Anonymous — February 27, 2008 @ 12:16 pm | Reply

  7. Thanks for the response. I hope this Palm Ferries is a real business and it would be good for the Caribbean. Anyone in Antigua has seen their boats in the harbor? Its suposed to be a large INCAT about the size of a cruise ship. Thanks for all your help. Guess I am still stuck with old LIAT. So much for choices in the Caribbean.

    Comment by Dominica — February 27, 2008 @ 3:53 pm | Reply

  8. I think a person could make nice eco friendly large catamaran or schooner for 100-300 passengers just sailing inter island as ferry like the 5 masted sailing cruise ships the WIND Jammer, imagine not using any fuel just powered by wind , slow and peaceful cruise besides a high speed ferry. take the stress out of travel. What about Caribbean sailing schools to train future boat captains, boat crew members when we have the sea in navigation, sea law ect which they can take all over the world as a qaulified sailor.

    Comment by Dominica — February 27, 2008 @ 4:06 pm | Reply

  9. Excellent article. Easy for layman reading, to the point and precise. The Caricom region is in need of taking heed to articles as this and making ammends. We are a trading and social system antagonistic to ourselves. A ferry system serviced by adequate Port, Quarantine inspection/processing and Customs facilities could help the region realize its true potential. Many products as furniture from this region are of tremendous quality and durability. They can be imported at reduced import duty rates as afforded within the community. A Customs Union similar to Europe’s would allow the movement of goods freely within the region thus facilitating trade and prosperity. This of course would naturally mean needed improvements in National security capacities to manage the movement of more people and goods. Will it ever happen? Change leadership among Political leaders is a rare commodity within the region. Oh for purpose grounded in interests beyound personal survival.


    Comment by Albert Sandy — March 28, 2008 @ 3:12 pm | Reply

  10. Apparently these companies are hoaxes, we are in the process of setting up a cargo ferry between the islands, interested parties may email me at [email protected], I will then forward the relevant telephone numbers to reach me at. I am especially interested in liasing with St. Lucian, Dominican, Antigua and Guyanese companies, all other companies are free to contact us, we will be doing business with all.

    Comment by Peter — May 18, 2008 @ 1:08 pm | Reply

  11. There is a catch 22 in this in my humble view, we seem to be calling for increase shipping activities, efficiencies in ports, reduced barriers to trade as it relates to Customs, licencing etc. It is to be noted that shipping is a very mobile business and ships go where demand is high. Therefore it is important for us as a region to look more seriously at our capacity to produce in the volumns required to ensure the viablility of ships plying our routes as well as exporting to third countries.

    The decision to allocate vessels on particular routes are not time consuming, once the demand exist. Where I beleive that the opportunies lie is in Caribbean owned and operated schooners or fast ferries that can ply between transhipment ports (Jamacia, Burhamas) and/or sub-regional port (Trinidad) through to the eastern Caribbean. This is also an opportunity for the CDB to seek joint venture funding, as shipping is an expensive investment for us poor Caribbean folk.

    In do so they would not only ship among the islands, but they would carry cargo from third countries as well, making these operation viable.

    Comment by Lyndell — November 15, 2008 @ 11:16 pm | Reply

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