Regional Ferry Firm Moves Up Launch Timetable – St. Lucia Times

The content originally appeared on: St. Lucia Times News

By Shanna Moore

A privately-owned maritime transport firm backed by the regional private sector group has fast-tracked its timeline to the inauguration of a regional ferry service, announcing that it is about to buy the ships that could start sailing by August.

Connect Caribe has reached a milestone by acquiring vessels earlier than anticipated, its chief executive said on Monday.

The partnership between the ferry operator and the Caribbean Private Sector Organisation (CPSO) has seen the entry of Jampur Group, a shipping conglomerate based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, speeding up the progress towards acquiring the fleet of ships, according to Ambassador Dr Andre Thomas, CEO and chairman of parent company Pleion Group Inc.

The development could bring forward the initial November launch to as early as August, he added.

Thomas told reporters the partnerships had “taken the maritime initiative from concept to reality”.

“Our partnership with the CPSO, whose data, guidance and leadership in implementing this project has served as accelerators, has been indispensable,” he said. “Their understanding of the commerce landscape has guided us in making strategic, logistical and tactical decisions.”

Thomas highlighted Connect Caribe’s alliance with new shipping partner Jampur Group, a renowned UK and Africa operator with over 30 years’ experience and a robust fleet.

“We’ve entered into an agreement with them and they will be providing our first fleet of ships, which are being acquired as we speak, and very soon we’ll be on our way to Caribbean waters,” he said.

The Jampur collaboration will allow Connect Caribe to begin voyages with “more ships than initially planned” – around 10 including cruise and cargo vessels, Ambassador Thomas said.

He added: “We are currently acquiring the ships. Then we will move to recruitment, where we are looking to recruit 270 people initially, including training.”

The third phase involves liaising with customs and port services across the region, in partnership with the CPSO.

Ambassador Thomas was optimistic about the prospects for the new ferry service, which aims to enhance maritime transport links that have been in sharp decline since the heyday of the late 1950s and 1960s when two ships plied northern and southern routes at the height of the former West Indies Federation.

The business executive is banking on the regional ferry service improving connectivity and logistics, opening up new economic opportunities and accelerating regional integration.

Connect Caribe has said that more information on routes, schedules and pricing will be provided in the coming months as the vessel acquisitions are finalised.

For now, the focus is on getting ships prepared and crews trained, with Ambassador Thomas expressing confidence the company can meet its revised target launch date.

Connect Caribe has invited event organisers and vendors of products and services to collaborate on cruises through its website.

PHOTO: Andre Thomas