Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey, speaking to the media prior to touring the West Indies Rum Distillery Limited on Friday. To the left is owner and Chairman of the WIRD, Alexandre Gabriel and to the right, Chairman of the Barbados Port Inc., Senator Lisa Cummins. (C.Pitt/BGIS)

The Barbados Port Inc. (BPI) has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Customs Department to expedite transactions in the Bridgetown Port.

Chairman of the BPI, Senator Lisa Cummins, made this disclosure last Friday, before touring the West Indies Rum Distillery Limited with Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey; Permanent Secretary, Esworth Reid and other officials.

“We want to make sure that big business and small individuals are able to transact their business in the port,” she said.

Ms. Cummins explained that while the port was working with big businesses, it was also working to ensure that personal effects cargo and those kinds of activities for smaller commercial operators would work more effectively in the Bridgetown Port.

“We already launched two projects in the last two months; one in shed four, and we are preparing to launch in shed two, which is specific to Barbadians just being able to go and get their boxes and their barrels out of the port, and ensuring that we are able to expedite those transactions,” she stated.

She added that at the end of a retreat in February, Vision 2030 was established to set a new trajectory for the port. 

“We entered the second phase of that…so we will be having discussions with all of our stakeholders, so we can implement within the next two months all the trajectories that we are going to be launching the port on, with regard to cruise, cargo and property development,” Ms. Cummins pointed out.

The senator noted that the Bridgetown Port had a critical role to play in importing and exporting goods in and out of Barbados.

“If we are not facilitating trade, and we are not facilitating business, then we are not operating at optimum capacity,” Ms. Cummins stated.

She told those present that in an effort to address the challenges, government was meeting with stakeholders to identify the problems, the bottlenecks and the cost-related issues, before putting measures in place.

Noting that the challenges were not insurmountable, Mr. Humphrey acknowledged that the port continued to be a significant player in Barbados.

He added that with the rum industry producing $80 million annually, it was possible that it could do seven to eight times more.

“Barbados must produce; the institutions of government and in the private sector must help Barbados produce.  I believe that Barbados must become the most innovative example of what a developing country can be,” he said.

The minister, under whose portfolio the BPI falls, noted that this was possible as the agency’s partners had already committed to helping resolve some of the issues, and a meeting is expected to be held soon to address some of them.

Meanwhile, owner and Chairman of the West Indies Distilleries Limited, Alexandre Gabriel, said he was pleased that government was sitting with the private sector.

He noted that they wanted to make the distillery more productive, and increase its export potential.  

“We are in line with government’s vision that in doing the right thing, rum would be very important to Barbados,” he said, adding that the island’s rum industry could be a billion-dollar industry by 2030.

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