First intra-regional sailings as early as August

Dr. Andre Thomas. -
Dr. Andre Thomas. -

AN estimated six million Caricom citizens could benefit from an intra-regional ferry service for goods and travel from as early as August 2024.

Speaking at a press conference on May 13, Pleion Group Inc CEO Dr Andre Thomas said their initial plan to begin sailings in November has been accelerated through two recent partnerships. One, he said, is with the Caricom Private Sector Organisation (CPSO), whose guidance and data have helped them make faster progress.

"Their understanding of the trade landscape, the commerce landscape, has been indispensable in guiding us in making strategic logistical and tactical decisions where this project is actually concerned," he said.

The second critical partnership is with the United Arab Emirates-based Jampur Group. He said they have entered into an agreement with them to provide the first ships to service the island chain.

"They are our shipping partner and what's great about them is that they have their own shipyard, they repair ships- so all the success conditions required for such a venture have been really been met. We have travel partners, cargo partners and e-commerce partners and now, we have a shipping partner with over 30 years experience in this particular field. This would accelerate our launch date."

He said, at the earliest, the new timeframe for the first sail is between August and October. This, he said, will be primarily for cargo and travel.

He said the goal is to eventually get around ten cargo vessels and two large luxury ships for travel that can accommodate up to 1,000 passengers at a time.

"Our intention was to have two large cruise ships and one cargo ship. That's changed with our partnership with Jampur. We're gonna have a lot more cargo ships... and so we are looking to have significant acquisition of multiple cargo ships that would then enable us to serve the region better."

To overcome the challenge of multiple currencies within the region, Thomas said the consortium is working with the Africa Exim Bank to utilise its Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS).

"I believe it will be game-changing for Caribbean economies because what it will do, it will allow a woman who is based in Guyana to produce soaps from the Amazon and sell it to a woman in Barbados and a woman in Barbados could, from her house, create the most amazing jam that everyone says is wonderful and becomes a hit on the Connect Caribe and sell 1,000 within a month to the nation of Jamaica."

Thomas said they are currently working on acquiring the vessels, building infrastructure at the respective ports and developing routes. He said the price of a ticket would, once all things remain equal, be around US $100.

Vice president of ship operations and crew management Richard Alleyne said when operational, the Connect Caribe service would help bolster the region's ability to respond to natural disasters.

Pleion Group Inc Barbados subsidiary, Connect Caribe, is a consortium comprised of Upturn Funds Caribbean, Upturn Funds New York, Windward Ferries, Ramps Logistics, JS Cruises and Tours, and Hinkson Computer Solutions Inc.

Its goal is to provide maritime transportation, trade, and commerce between Caribbean countries before the end of the year.


"First intra-regional sailings as early as August"

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