|A full house at the opening ceremonies of the Caribbean Shipping Association 41st Annual General Meeting and Exhibition, held at the Hilton last week. (A.Miller/BGIS)|
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has made it clear that he will not be tolerating any obstacles to the establishment of efficient transport facilities in the region.
He reiterated the call which he made at the CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting in St. Kitts, earlier this year, during the opening ceremony of the Caribbean Shipping Association 41st Annual General Meeting and Exhibition.?? It was held recently at Hilton Barbados.
Mr. Stuart emphasised that it was patently obvious that intra-regional transport will be the life-blood of a vibrant CARICOM Single Market and Economy. "Just as the integration and development of the United States in the 1860’s depended on the railway, so the development of CARICOM depends on maritime transport."
Underscoring the importance of regional integration and its role in boosting the economy through exports and sustaining the tourism economy during the recession, the Prime Minister pledged his commitment to facilitating air and maritime transport within CARICOM and the wider Caribbean.
"I, therefore, want to challenge the Caribbean Shipping Association with adding intra-regional transport to the excellent provisions it now makes for international maritime transport.?? It is not a case of either international transport or intra-regional transport…we need them both if we are to grow and prosper," Mr. Stuart underlined.
The Prime Minister also espoused the need for a collaborative effort to put infrastructure in place to facilitate regional transport and communication that would enable locals and visitors to travel, trade and experience the rich, social, cultural and ecological diversity of the region.
We need to explore how we can expose travellers to the golden sands and clear blue seas of the islands; the rainforests and rivers of the mainland and the rich cultural heritage of the Caribbean … we need the maritime infrastructure to enable regional hubs to emerge to facilitate cargo from the emerging G-20 countries being landed and trans-shipped efficiently and safely to destinations within the CSME," Mr. Stuart surmised.
Alluding to a recent Report on the Study of the Feasibility of Establishing a Fast Ferry Service in the Southern Caribbean, the Prime Minister revealed that the Final Report of the Study in January this year, concluded that the market demand for the proposed ferry service needed to be tested and proven on the high density traffic routes.
In this regard, it was also recommended that a six-month Pilot Project be implemented to "confirm our hunch that when you take into consideration the revenue from cargo, together with that from passengers, particularly tourists who want to sail and sample other territories at will, the venture could be profitable".
Mr. Stuart added: "I, therefore, commend the Government of Trinidad and Tobago for taking the bull by the horns as it were a few weeks ago, and giving a firm commitment to get this service up and running as soon as possible."