Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 15th 2018 Contents T
he inter-island transporta-
tion woes that have prevailed
on the seabridge for the bet-
ter part of a year illustrate
quite clearly the Govern-
ment’s failure to manage a
service so vital for connecting passengers,
trade, and commerce between both islands.
Port Authority chairman Allison Lewis’
statement last week that she was unable to
say when one of the passenger ferries—the
T&T Express—would be back up and run-
ning is symptomatic of the complete break-
down in the apparatus of the authority to
comprehensively manage its assets. These
assets have been the source of one contro-
versy after another, have been the bane of
existence for Trinbagonians traversing the
route, and quite frankly, have been limping
Further, the other passenger ferry that
services the route, the T&T Spirit, has been
dry-docked since last June with no line of
sight for its return (interestingly, at the time
it was dry docked, it was initially only sup-
posedly to be out of service for 30 days).
Beyond the terrible financial blow to To-
bago’s hotel, business and broader tourism
industry is the reputational damage that
continues to be inflicted upon T&T (and the
Government) as a place where public enti-
ties simply cannot operate in an efficient
I suppose we’re not discovering anything
new there. The seabridge collapse has, how-
ever, proven itself to be quite instructive in
a number of other areas and has brought
with it a few questions that should actively
engage the attention of regular citizens as
well as the local business community.
Firstly, in this “guava season” that the
Government finds itself in, it is beyond
necessary for it to start seriously consider-
ing what businesses it can and should be in
Though it has committed itself to remain
in the inter-island sea transportation busi-
ness through its acquisition of the soon to
arrive US$17.4 million Galleon’s Passage
ferry, the question that remains is, in 2018,
is it really necessary for the state to provide
an inter-island ferry service that it will con-
tinue to heavily subsidise to the tune of mil-
lions of dollars per year and will ostensibly
never generate any return on?
When maintenance and other costs are
factored, will the Government be able to
efficiently sustain such operations given
competing demands, and all the other po-
tentially more beneficial ways to deploy its
History, in some respects, has already an-
swered this question.
Many citizens will, however, view such a
service as an obligation of the State to its
people, reasoning that state involvement
ensures affordability and fairness.
Permit me to challenge that perception.
Firstly, other twin-island countries in the
region such as St Kitts and Nevis, Antigua
and Barbuda and St Vincent and the Gren-
adines have no state-run ferry services.
n fact, sea transport between the is-
lands is all privately managed and,
from all accounts, operates with a
level of efficiency the likes of which
T&T has not experienced in quite
Additionally, concerns over pricing seem
to be less of an issue for our regional neigh-
bours than the ability to, for want of a bet-
ter phrase, get things done.
One would imagine given the persistent
problems currently plaguing the seabridge,
such thinking would obtain here as well.
Certainly the routes and conditions might
be different, but thinking along those lines
would essentially be missing the forest for
If these islands, with way less wealth than
T&T, can perhaps out of sheer necessity,
harness their commercial interests in this
way, why can’t we? Perhaps therein lies the
crux of the matter. The necessity that drives
such activity in these territories has never
existed in T&T because of our “nanny-state”
culture perpetuated by successively profli-
This brings me to my second point.
The fact that no local private sector entity
(individual, conglomerate or otherwise) has
stepped up to offer such a service to citizens
crying out for a solution is a head-scratcher
in its own right.
There are many financially well-endowed
players in T&T that could easily lease a
ferry, staff it, and profitably offer a level of
service and on-time efficiency far superior
to what Trinbagonians must currently con-
tend with—a service for which people will
be willing to pay.
Further, if multiple operators plied their
trade on the route the ensuing competition
would result in reasonable prices for com-
muters on the sea-bridge.
The real question is why haven’t they?
Perhaps the Government’s role over the
years has crowded out private capital from
investing in such a venture. Or maybe the
layers of bureaucracy and regulatory hoo-
la-hoops that local business interests would
have to jump through make such an en-
deavour seem uninspiring. All reasonable
conclusions. That said, often times where
governments have failed to be efficient, pri-
vate interests have been able to reap huge
profits through their enterprise and acu-
Is the inter-island sea route such an op-
portunity that is being slept on?
Thursday, February 15, 2018
Editing and design
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Slow Boat. Fast Boat. No Boat.
The fact that no local
private sector entity
(individual, conglomerate or
otherwise) has stepped up
to offer such a service to
citizens crying out for a
solution is a head-scratcher
in its own right.
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