Update on ferry services, 2023

Since my earlier essay, very little has happened with regard to ferry services and it is also clear that Covid was a serious setback. And yet, the World economy is again moving fast. Despite the pandemic, exports still grew by a whopping 27% from 2018 to 2022. In fact, World exports trebled in the two decades from 2003 - 2022. (2003: $7.5; 2018: $19.3; 2022: $24.5 (USD, trillions)) (1)

Sadly, this economic progress is not felt equally everywhere and some areas are lagging. The reasons for this falling behind can be the result of many factors: Lack of ... availability of resources, education, investment and innovation, labour force and skills training, entrepreneurship, connectivity, technology and so on, are the main impediments to economic progress. It is also clear that the pandemic impacted on some countries or regions more than others.

The OECS is a political-cooperative organisation between several eastern Caribbean 'Small Island Developing States', otherwise known as SIDS. Tourism is the main industry and no one doubts the importance of tourism to these small nations, the populations of which are often eclipsed by the large corporations and cruiselines that ply their shores and resorts.

These OECS countries are one example where many of these impediments appear to have resulted in slow economic progress but there are still many opportunities for local people to build on. Tourism continues to be the primary one and services related to tourism such as tour guiding and taxi services are seen as the low hanging fruit. But there are others such as light manufacturing, crafts, fashion and handiwork, foodstuffs, farming, entertainment, and the like that can bring prosperity to a wider base of people. We also can't forget about people travelling with their pets. All of these would bring a flavour that is unique to the region and even tourists would benefit from a wider selection of products and souvenirs to choose from. Trinkets and souvenirs that are locally made would be hugely more attractive to visitors compared to those made in the Orient.

In order for local people to be enabled, it is vital for physical connectivity to be enhanced to bring as many opportunities as possible. Doing so is to bring Caribbean nations onto the same playing field as the rest of the World. For wealthier citizens, however, air connectivity will always be the main way that will enable them to move around. But for many, this is too expensive and would make the cost of producing many goods uncompetitive. So, sea links become the best, and sometimes only, option for these people and producers.

Establishing a reliable ferry system will make the transport of people and goods much more affordable and offer alternatives for travel within the region. And, amongst business leaders and government officials, the need for - and awareness of - ferry services in the region have been increasing dramatically in the last couple of years.

"If you want a more relaxed way to travel without any restrictions on the amount of luggage you can carry, then you should reserve a seat on a ferry service. The flexibility offered by a ferry service makes it very popular for both international and domestic travel". (2)

But, as Alessandro Giustolisi laments, "We can’t complain about not being taken seriously by the major players in the international arena if we do not strengthen our unity as a commercial block". (3)

And, "Although there is widespread acceptance that if inter-regional tourism is to flourish, decisive action is needed to ease the multiple taxes charged and to remove other impediments to travel, inaction prevails". This article by David Jessop also quotes PM Mia Mottley as saying "I am aware that unless we get to the stage where we can facilitate the movement of not just people, but vehicles and cargo we will not reap the full benefit of the space we have the honour to occupy". (4)

One service that proves the viability of sea-based routes, L'Express des Iles, based in Guadeloupe, has been in business for 30 years. "L’Express des Iles is the leading ferry company in the Eastern Caribbean, with a network that includes Guadeloupe, Martinique, Les Sainte, Marie Galante, Dominica and Saint Lucia". (5)

This company has clearly demonstrated that viable, profitable routes exist and it is only a question of time before someone grabs the economic potential of other as yet untapped routes.

So, as S Brian Samuel stated, way back in 2015 ...

"Just do it. This is a project that’s been dying to happen, for a long time. With the right support from regional governments and development institutions, this long-awaited, much-needed project can finally become a reality". (6)

One clear example of how physical connectivity enhances economic activity is the US Interstate highway system. The building of fast, high volume and easily accessible linkages between cities and towns promoted an unparalleled expansion of economic opportunities for all types of businesses. This was probably the single most impactful investment in economic development in recent history. It came at a price but the benefits are still being reaped to this day.

The Caribbean can't build a highway system but it can build marine linkages that will produce similar advantages for local businesses to sell and ship their goods into other local markets economically. The benefits of such opportunities will be ongoing and so, the one time high price of getting such a system operating will be amortised over a long time, well into the future. In fact, in large part, this system is already in place between many countries. So, the completion of a series of linkages that have not yet been made will not be as onerous as it may seem. This will, in turn, bring many advantages to local economies and people. In order for this to happen requires a herculean effort on the part of local politicians and business leaders. These people must, at least temporarily, be willing to set aside long standing local political differences in order to jump-start the development of a multitude of mutually beneficial projects.

Intra-Caribbean Tourism

The Caribbean market is the third largest market for the Caribbean after the USA and Europe. Traditionally, many of the Caribbean visitors have travelled to other Caribbean destinations mainly for business or to visit friends and/or relatives (VFR) or to shop. More and more, however, Caribbean people travel to other Caribbean countries for events such as festivals and sports, as well as for leisure.

Long deprived of any form of active promotion and advertising by either governments or the land-based private sector, the intra-Caribbean market would appear to have a potential for growth that has not as yet been fully exploited.

"Recently, a few countries and a few Caribbean carriers have been addressing this market with some success. These efforts are now being bolstered by CTO, which in 2001 launched for the first time a dedicated intra-Caribbean marketing programme, with a budget of US$200,000 and the recruitment of a marketing professional to manage the project.This effort needs to be fully supported at the national level. It is most important that the development of the intra-Caribbean travel market must be seen as a collaborative effort between CTO and its member countries". (7)

That quote is from the WTTC in 2004 and I sense that there has been little progress in overcoming barriers to intra-regional travel. Barriers that can be easily taken down through cooperative efforts.

One such impediment is co-promotion but there are exceptions, notably Sandals/Beaches which spends an enormous amount on advertising in source markets. Their success in attracting visitors clearly shows and is much sought after in Caribbean countries. But, generally, most locations depend on their official tourism website to stand as the main tool to attract visitors.

Other organizations also continue to call for expanded connectivity, such as,

"World Bank: Increase Digital and Physical Connectivity ...

Contribute to strengthen the region’s air and sea transport connectivity by improving operational safety and navigation efficiency of air transport in the Eastern Caribbean and strengthening the disaster resilience of airports in Grenada and St. Lucia". (8)

... and the Caribbean Development Bank

"Efforts to develop an inter-island ferry service in the East Caribbean

To address some of the inter-island travel challenges, proposals to develop a ferry service between islands which could enhance tourism regionally and internationally, have been developed. Despite potential benefits, the development of this service has faced two major obstacles, according to stakeholders. Firstly, there is a technical issue that the vessel necessary to create the ferry system – for example, one that can carry approximately 200 people and link Barbados, Saint Lucia, Grenada, and St. Vincent – would cost approximately US$20 million. Secondly, developing a customs and border crossing system that would permit the seamless passage of people and goods is a challenge. Currently, the customs clearance process can be long and is non-standardised across islands. This limits the feasibility of the ferry service". (9)

"Transport links

Investigate the development of ferry services between small and medium-sized Eastern Caribbean islands. This can reduce the dependence and burden on air transportation, while also adding an alternative mode for transporting products. The development of the ferry services may be more easily achieved by forming a pan-regional council that could be overseen by the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS)". (10)

This study also describes other much needed reforms to boost intra-Caribbean trade:

Immigration & customs

Consider standardising the border crossing and customs procedures across the BMCs.

The standardisation should aim at minimizing the number of forms and ensuring that the same forms are required across all BMCs. Also consider reviewing the protocols and codes of conduct for border agents to reduce variation in how tourists are treated during the customs process. Customer service could be part of agents’ training.
Investigate the development of ferry services between small and medium-sized Eastern Caribbean islands. This can reduce the dependence and burden on air transportation, while also adding an alternative mode for transporting products. The development of the ferry services may be more easily achieved by forming a pan-regional council that could be overseen by the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS)". (11)

But recently, there's some really exciting tourism oriented initiatives happening in the eastern Caribbean. So exciting, I almost can't believe its true!

Starting some time ago, the OECS countries had come together for some tourism co-promotion. That in itself was the beginning of a great co-operation but has now been expanded into some real branded products with 'Soulful Caribbean Escapes' (soulfulcaribbeanescapes.com). This is exactly what these small, cash-strapped countries need to do and there is every reason to expect results from this much needed co-promotion.

Also, with regard to regional transportation, the excitement is ramping up with the proposal for a project to connect several southern Caribbean islands. This vital project is being headed up by Tore Torsteinson*, a maritime consultant and experienced small ship operator and judging by the comments on facebook pages, there's a lot of people just waiting for this to become a reality.

As Tore Torsteinson states in a personal communication:

"I therefore am running this campaign to sensitize the regional population to the possibility to travel by ferry. In two months I have more than 10,000 positive reactions. So the market is there.
I also hope that some Business person perhaps burning for regional integration, ease of travel and speedy delivery of cargo (containerised) would show interest in becoming partner/investor/financier. So far not much luck. However I am working with a venture fund which has shown some serious interest".

The service will be known as Windward Ferries (www.windwardferries.com, future date of availability unknown) and will be based in Trinidad. It has already received numerous commendations from interested parties since its announcement earlier this year.

Mr Torsteinson is taking on considerable risk here and the clear goal is to prove the service's viability and to overcome any further resistance that might be out there. He clearly has much needed experience, having run several services starting nearly 40 years ago with 'Admiral I & II'. Ironically, that former service ran aground in 2000 due to regulatory issues, not because the service was not viable. This current project deserves all the help and promotion that it can muster.

A major hurdle is the coordination of visa and immigration systems between various countries. This problem is being looked at as most countries realize the impediment that this causes.

"The operationalisation of an enhanced border system is the aim of the 'Establishment of Integrated Border Systems Project.' The project will create a maritime single window for use in the OECS" The objective is to "facilitate faster release and clearance of goods and people to circulate freely within the single economic space in an effort to enhance trade and provide better service and access to businesses." (12)

Citizens benefit from the common Caricom travel rules and these rules must also be extended to travellers from outside the region for temporary stays. The purposes to allow free movement to allow these visitors to explore the region easily. While, some people express concerns about criminal traffic, and this is a legitimate concern anywhere, these is always the ability for customs authorities to stop suspicious individuals entering or leaving their country. So, while criminal traffic is possible, with much lower sea based traffic compared to air, criminals would be exposing themselves to a higher level of scrutiny.

Another hurdle in the way of operating an open service is the notion of transporting licensed cars or trucks between jurisdictions. This might be easily handled by authorities who can issue temporary driving licenses to these vehicles and should not be an impediment. It will be obvious who these people are. Just think about what it would mean to be able to move around the eastern Caribbean in your own car. This would be an unparalleled travel experience that doesn't exist anywhere else in the World.

The rules need to be hammered out without delay because the region desperately needs deeper cooperation to accompany such cooperative initiatives. Cheaper, expanded shipping and travel options are always going to be an advantage to commerce. Many businesses will benefit, not just tourism businesses. It is genuinely a major opening to new and prosperous opportunities. Again, clearance and simplification of regulatory issues will benefit freer travel within the region.

Another freight company, Windward Freight Solutions (www.windwardfreightsolutions.com) has been operating since 2018. Based in Florida, this company provides sea and air shipping services from the US to many Caribbean islands. These companies should look into pursuing goals in their common interests.

Regional transportation woes continue to plague this underserved region, both by air and by sea. The lack of a truly interconnected ferry service is a massive hole in the regional infrastructure, one that clearly is begging to be filled. Despite much press reporting and numerous studies in support of such a project, a lack of will and continual resistance to providing adequate funding are standing in the way of this important boost to the local economies of the small islands in the eastern Caribbean.

What is holding back such progressive development appears to be a lack of willingness on the part of politicians from neighbouring countries to breach long-standing differences. In turn, this contributes to a climate of 'unsureity' for local businesses wherein operations are never sure about the long-term cost-effective conduct of business. This feeds back to the former climate of unwillingness and on it goes. Businesses abhor instability and seek stable regulatory frameworks in which their operations can thrive.

However, nothing is impossible when it comes to building a ferry network in the eastern Caribbean and the indications from all stakeholders is mostly positive. So, the time has come for the culmination of decades of discussions to bear fruit.

Genuine leadership will be seen as visionary, indeed legendary, when the final push to get this much needed service underway is finally successful. It is clear though that this leadership is unlikely to emanate from any politicians in the region. So, business leaders must step up to fill the void.

(1) International Trade Centre; https://www.trademap.org/
(2) While Aruba was only talking about a possible inter-island ferry ABC Ferry travel from Windward Ferries began operations in the Eastern Caribbean - EA News Aruba, 2023; https://www.eanews.com/while-aruba-was-only-talking-about-a-possible-inter-island-ferry-abc-ferry-travel-from-windward-ferries-ltd-began-operations-in-the-eastern-caribbean/
(3) #BTColumn - Ferry business in the Caribbean should be preceded by free movement of goods, people by Alessandro Giustolisi, Barbados Today, 2023; https://barbadostoday.bb/2023/05/24/btcolumn-ferry-business-in-the-caribbean-should-be-preceded-by-free-movement-of-goods-people/
(4) Bringing inter-island travel into the twenty first century by David Jessop, The Caribbean Council, 2023; https://www.caribbean-council.org/bringing-inter-island-travel-twenty-first-century/
(5) Regional Caribbean Ferry Returns to Antigua, 2023; https://www.caribjournal.com/2022/12/12/caribbean-ferry-returns-to-antigua/
(6) The Case for an Eastern Caribbean Ferry by S Brian Samuel, 2015; https://www.caribjournal.com/2015/02/12/the-case-for-an-eastern-caribbean-ferry/
(7) Caribbean economic impact of tourism, WTTC, 2004, pg 67)
(8) The World Bank in the Eastern Caribbean; https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/oecs/overview#2
(9) Caribbean Tourism Industry Reform, CBD, 2017 (pg 24)
(10) Caribbean Tourism Industry Reform, CBD, 2017 (pg 49)
(11) Caribbean Tourism Industry Reform, CBD, 2017 (pg 49); last three found at: https://www.caribank.org/publications-and-resources/resource-library/thematic-papers/tourism-industry-reform-strategies-enhanced-economic-impact
(12) The Establishment Of Integrated Border Systems For The Organisation Of The Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) – CARICOM IMPACS, 2023; https://www.caricomimpacs.org/projects/integrated-border-systems-for-the-organisations-of-the-eastern-caribbean-states-oecs

Read more:

Tore Torsteinson; https://tt.linkedin.com/in/tore-torsteinson-63a38540

OECS LAUNCHES NICHE TOURISM PACKAGES, Barnacle News, Grenada; https://thebarnaclenews.com/oecs-launches-niche-tourism-packages/

Ferry business in the Caribbean should be preceded by free movement of goods, people by Alessandro Giustolisi; https://barbadostoday.bb/2023/05/24/btcolumn-ferry-business-in-the-caribbean-should-be-preceded-by-free-movement-of-goods-people/

The case for a Caribbean ferry business by Alessandro Giustolisi; https://barbadostoday.bb/2023/06/16/btcolumn-the-case-for-a-caribbean-ferry-business/

Canada announces funding for projects in the Caribbean; https://www.canada.ca/en/global-affairs/news/2023/01/canada-announces-funding-for-projects-in-the-caribbean.html

Canada and the Caribbean Development Bank; https://www.international.gc.ca/world-monde/international_relations-relations_internationales/multilateral-multilateraux/cdb-bdc.aspx?lang=eng

Advancing the Trade and Development interests of the OECS in Geneva; https://www.oecs.org/en/advancing-the-trade-and-development-interests-of-the-oecs-in-geneva

Changing the focus of the discussion regarding viable ferry transportation in the OECS countries

OECS countries, mostly south of Saint Lucia, must be the primary focus of any expansion of ferry services. Barbados may be added to this. Here are some ways that the discussion must be adapted to new realities. In addition, statements made at the recent fourth WTO-TPR clearly commit OECS countries, along with the EU and UK governments, to supporting and improving maritime transportation. This is not simply hypothetical but forms at least part of a concrete basis for moving forward.

Further the OECS has published its own competitiveness plan (CCIP) which states:

“A vital industry. The competitiveness of an economy depends in large part on the efficiency of its transportation sector by allowing it to trade goods and services on a timely basis with lower transaction costs. As a region made up of island nations with small domestic markets, an efficient maritime shipping sector is particularly important for the OECS. Unfortunately, the region’s maritime shipping sector is not competitive. The World Bank estimates that transportation costs in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) as a percentage of GDP fall between 16% and 26% on average, which is significantly higher than the OECD average of 9%. (more below)

Any discussion of expanded intra-regional trade cannot be complete without including improving transportation options. Now is the time for commitments (see below) to be put into action with support and financial backing for effective solutions. The OECS has firmly committed to filling the void of improved maritime transportation. EU and UK governments are committed to supporting OECS governments. It is up to all these governments to come together and to follow through on these statements. The goal of any supplier or transportation service needs to show that their service will comply with the stated goals of the OECS.

The future must be the guiding force, not the past. Anyone can easily see that to base current decision making on past performance will never allow the ferry services, or any other maritime transportation service, to be addressed with the importance that they deserve. Failure of the service to be implemented cannot be seen as a failure of the service or service provider when they are putting in place services to which the OECS has already made plain that they want to become a reality. Every government support available needs to be enlisted to make this happen.

Trade within the OECS region has remained at the same level for the past twenty years. It is clear that the lack of affordable transportation within the region is a factor in limiting or even preventing expansion of trade. When local producers are hampered by lack of affordable shipping options there is no opportunity for them to export their products to nearby local markets.

Chart: OECS-Exports from 2003 to 2022, Intracen

This chart shows that intra-regional trade has never increased except for a single blip in 2009 which is related to fuel exports from Antigua. In fact, since 2013, trade has been gradually decreasing.

This single fact must be a red flashing light to anyone that there is something missing in intra-regional trade growth. What is missing is affordable and efficient intra-regional transportation.

In addition, due to the impacts of the Pandemic along with Climate Change, if nothing is done, these impacts will only multiply for the local people. The result will be further stagnation of trade and investment.

Future opportunities must become the focus of any discussion. There may be many small producers who need improved and cheaper shipping in order to export products within the local markets and still remain competitive.

The purpose of improving local transportation is many-fold:
- to provide reliable, cost-effective shipping solutions to suppliers and small producers within the region
- to expand transportation choices for tourism, for local as well as foreign visitors
- to offset and to mitigate shocks that occur in international trade and lost opportunities by supplying local producers with other viable shipping options.
- to reduce costs for local producers, travellers and tourists.
- mitigate losses due to spoilage and damage during shipping
- to respond to local demand as may befit changing market conditions
- addressing and mitigating local food and health security issues

The benefits of improved ferry services will accrue to numerous small producers. Expanded local export opportunities can become an important venue to these people.

These opportunities also may benefit local people who want to travel to nearby islands to visit friends and relatives or to attend festivals and sporting events.

Trade between OECS countries is rarely discussed. Mostly trade with countries outside the region receives most attention. This misses many opportunities for expanding local trade particularly for small producers that may not have the resources to compete in international markets.

In order for anyone to have a complete and meaningful discussion of OECS trade, intra-regional trade must become elevated in importance so as to be treated with the same level of importance. This levels the playing field for all producers but especially for small producers who may be looking for local trade opportunities.

Looking for large trade opportunities outside the region misses these local opportunities. It also means that local producers are forced to compete in international markets with much bigger players who clearly have more resources.

Small scale transportation suppliers can also adapt to changing transportation needs more quickly. So, if there is a need for a ferry to supply a route on a temporary or occasional basis, this might be better handled by a local small scale service.
Finger pointing at individuals or entities that fail to make this much needed service a reality must invariably include anyone who has failed to support it by their own inaction and/or to follow through on commitments that are on record. This would include organisations, governments and politicians who can't hide from the commitments made, as shown here. The people of the OECS are counting on reliable and economical ferry services to become a reality. Indeed, failure is not an option.


The OECS Secretariat, January 15, 2013 (https://www.oecs.org/en/our-work/knowledge/library/business/oecs-maritime-shipping-ccip-01-15-13)


A vital industry. The competitiveness of an economy depends in large part on the efficiency of its transportation sector by allowing it to trade goods and services on a timely basis with lower transaction costs. As a region made up of island nations with small domestic markets, an efficient maritime shipping sector is particularly important for the OECS. Unfortunately, the region’s maritime shipping sector is not competitive. The World Bank estimates that transportation costs in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) as a percentage of GDP fall between 16% and 26% on average, which is significantly higher than the OECD average of 9%.

SME dominated. The maritime shipping sector consists of both a “formal shipping sector” as well as an “informal sector.” The formal sector is made up of large international shipping lines such as Geest, Seabord, and CMA-CGM, which provide shipping services direct from the USA or Europe to their regional hubs in Barbados and Trinidad and then on to other islands through designated feeder lines. The local industry is largely informal. It is made-up primarily of small vessels – i.e. cargo capacity of under 500 tonnes. These small vessels that ply their trade within the OECS and to major islands like Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago form the core of the OECS Maritime Shipping Cluster.

Coordination failures. The OECS maritime shipping sector has traditionally been highly fragmented with limited coordination amongst stakeholders. Until recently the cluster could best be described as an agglomeration of small vessel owners operating on an informal basis. The fragmented and informal nature of the cluster may be attributed to three factors: (1) the evolution of the industry was driven overwhelmingly by family enterprises, (2) the limited degree of support provided by national governments, and (3) spatial challenges, owing to cluster members being scattered across numerous islands over a wide expanse of water. These factors served to isolate individual vessel owners, leaving them ill-equipped to upgrade or even maintain their service offering. A 2011 survey of OECS shippers found that 100% of respondents were dissatisfied with the reliability, regularity, and consistency of the shipping services offered.

Changing course. The tension, receptivity, insight, and moral purpose required for positive change to occur are now in place; but most importantly, strong leadership has emerged from both the public and private sector. In line with The Revised Treaty of Basseterre establishing the OECS Economic Union, which transfers legislative competence from national parliaments to the OECS Authority in the area of maritime transportation, the OECS Secretariat has allocated resources to the development of the sector. For its part, the private sector has come to realize that it can no longer be business as usual. Vessel owners and operators who form the core of the shipping cluster are now represented by a committed team has agreed to take on a leadership role in the development of the cluster. The working relationship between the OECS Secretariat and the cluster leadership team is positive and can serve as the basis of a highly productive public private dialogue.

A proven model. In October 2011 the cluster overwhelmingly agreed to form a shipping pool. The basic concept of a pool model is the centralized management of ships from a number of different owners. Specifically, a dedicated management team will deploy vessels (i.e. routes, scheduling, bunkering, and cargo-handling), negotiate contracts, set freight rates, appoint agents, collect all freight revenues and cover all costs, distribute the net revenue to the owners after allowing for administrative costs. Key success factors for the shipping pool model include the efficient vessel deployment, well-advertised services, aggressive marketing, dependable schedules, and strong negotiating skills to reduce input costs. The pool approach is a standard model in the shipping industry and has been successfully implemented in Denmark, Norway, Germany, Japan and other geographies. The OECS maritime shipping pool will be formalized into an independent financially self-sufficient company that will ensure the long-term sustainability of the cluster.

Compete Caribbean’s Additionality. The cluster, led by the OECS Secretariat, seeks funding from Compete Caribbean to solidify the institutional arrangements necessary to satisfy a well- defined gap in the market and to sustain the cluster’s commercial success over the medium to long term. The Cluster Competitiveness Improvement Plan (CCIP) outlined in Sections 3 and 4 is designed to support the cluster’s implementation of the shipping pool model: The plan encompasses three stream of work: (1) strengthen the cluster, (2) upgrade the service offering, and (3) increase shipping volumes.

1. Strengthen the cluster: given that the cluster is composed primarily of SMEs that are fragmented institutionally and geographically, for the pool model to succeed the cluster’s capacity for collective action must be improved. Otherwise any initiative would eventually lose momentum due to institutional and spatial obstacles.

2. Upgrade the service offering: the current level of service provided by the cluster is not competitive. Upgrading the service will require a mix of safety and business training, vessel upgrades, and the steady infusion of new management talent and entrepreneurial zeal to ensure the cluster can anticipate, adjust, and innovate its business model as market conditions and customer needs evolve.

3. Grow shipping volumes. To ensure the implementation of the pool model is demand driven, the proposed strategy focuses on the unrealized potential of partnering with (versus competing against) the international shipping lines to grow the transshipment segment of the market, as well as the development of key shipping lanes to Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados. Key to growing the market will be strengthening the shipping industry’s links to grower and manufacturing associations throughout the region.

High impact investment. The CCIP is designed to produce significant impact at the (i) firm, (ii) sector, and (iii) regional level.

i. Firm-level impact: will occur in the form of increased sales and profit margins. Higher sales will result from a sustained focus on marketing the services of the shipping pool to five high growth potential segments of the market: transshipments for the international lines, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, new markets such as Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and the OECS agribusiness and small manufacturing sectors. An indicative logistics plan commissioned by the Centre for Enterprise Development determined that a re-deployment of small vessels would increase net revenue on the main shipping routes by 100% to 483%.

ii. Sector-level impact: a pool approach to the shipping sector will make the transfer of skills and knowledge more economically feasible. By pooling demand, the cluster will be able to access world class training (through consultants or international shipping lines) in key areas such as safety, security, and business management that would otherwise be cost prohibitive to individual vessel operators. Additionally, a greater awareness and knowledge of the sector will spill-over into the public policy sphere as the cluster can engage the public sector and advocate for its interests more effectively than any single firm could do on its own. Projected cluster revenues under three different scenarios are expected to increase between 74% and 247% over a five year period.

iii. Regional-level impact. Given the cross-cutting nature of the transportation sector the greatest impact of the cluster will occur at the regional level. The regional impact of the cluster is projected to come in three forms:

(a) Enhanced competitiveness of key export sectors. A more efficient shipping sector will improve the competitiveness of the region’s broader economy, especially the agribusiness and manufacturing sectors, which are dominated by small producers and SMEs, respectively,

(b) higher disposable income for poor households. A more efficient shipping sector will lower the cost of food stuffs, which will disproportionately benefit the poor who spend up to 80% of their household income on groceries, and

(c) increased regional integration: The successful development of the regional maritime shipping sector will not only help to better integrate the OECS economy, it will serve as an example of the benefits of regional integration and provide a template for the development of other much needed regional public goods such as shared research and development centers and export promotion activities.


OECS WTO Members Conclude Successful Trade Policy Review in Geneva

“The OECS Delegation was led by The HonourableEverly Paul Chet Greene, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Antigua and Barbuda and Chair of the OECS Council of Trade Ministers. Other OECS representatives included HonourableKeisal Peters, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Some OECS WTO Members were represented by their Senior Trade and Government Officials.Dr. Didacus Jules, Director-General of the OECS, also participated and was ably supported by other senior officials from the Commission of the OECS. (https://www.nevispages.com/oecs-wto-members-conclude-successful-trade-policy-review-in-geneva/)

OECS Contributes to a Successful WTO Ministerial Conference!

OECS Media Release

The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) WTO Members were represented by a fifteen-member strong contingent, including three Ministers of Trade, the Director General of the OECS, three Ambassadors and, senior trade officials at the Twelfth Ministerial Conference (MC12) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) from June 12 to 17 in Geneva, Switzerland.


Short-sea shipping: A solution to Caribbean logistics challenges?

Co-author: Krista Lucenti, IDB

Krista Lucenti is a Senior Trade Specialist in the Trade and Investment Division of the IDB based in Trinidad and Tobago. She coordinates the Division’s Caribbean operational portfolio which consists of projects focused on maritime transport and ports, trade facilitation, logistics and global services exports.

In recent years, she has coordinated the Caribbean Strategic Agenda on Integration, undertaken research in the areas of trade and maritime transport, and coordinated regional policy dialogues. Prior to joining the Bank, Krista worked at the World Bank in Geneva where she supported work on the Integrated Framework, trade facilitation, and diagnostic trade and integration studies. She holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Bern, Switzerland as well as degrees from both the School of Oriental and African Studies, London and McGill University, Montreal

"Caribbean islands face significant competitive disadvantages in trade because of a variety of factors — including the size and nature of their economies and their geographic location, which necessitates a reliance on maritime and air transport for most of their import and export needs, with 90 percent of goods being transported by sea.

At the same time, maritime transport and insurance costs in the Caribbean are 30 percent higher than the world average. These costs are the result of a unique set of interrelated challenges, including but not limited to outdated and inefficient port infrastructure, lack of flexibility in working hours, labor-intensive operations, and high customs and excise taxes.

Focusing on trade and transport facilitation (e.g., port community systems, customs modernisation, and robust electronic single windows for trade) could improve efficiencies and reduce the time and cost of moving goods within the region".

One comment: Willerd Sànchez says

"This has been one of the best articles I’ve read. As the saying goes, “unity is strength”, if all governments and private companies of the Caribbean meet and invest in the infrastructure of this sector, we will all move forward. An example is King Ocean (www.kingocean.com), that is a company worthy of being recognized both for its social activities and for its work. I only hope that all sectors reach an agreement and produce a positive change for all".


The Caribbean: For better short-sea shipping, IDB/CPCS, 2018

Inter-American Development Bank enlists CPCS to improve the islands’ maritime trade networks and infrastructure.

The challenge

The Caribbean is a group of small islands that relies on trade and maritime transport networks to keep its economy strong. It goes without saying that the Caribbean would benefit from a more robust short-sea shipping system.

“Integration is key for the region’s economic growth, repeats Andrew Bouffard, senior consultant at CPCS.

Transport and trade integration policies can make the Caribbean more competitive.


The study cited here was published by the Inter-American Development Bank in 2018 (see next).

Some of the recommendations put forward by the study are as follows:

"Inter-island trade volumes in the Eastern Caribbean are not sufficient in and of themselves to justify a service that is customized to that trade. This would imply that although a more suitable solution – one which serves inter-island trade more efficiently than the current system – might be found, that solution may have to serve another market primarily and treat inter-island trade as a secondary market".

(source: https://cpcs.ca/projects/the-caribbean-for-better-short-sea-shipping/)

Short sea shipping network and finance model for the Caribbean / CPCS in association with Trevor Hamilton & Associates; editors, Krista Lucenti, Sergio Deambrosi, Erick Feijóo, Iván Corbacho. (IDB Technical Note; 1419)

Abstract: An analysis was carried out to provide policy and investment recommendations for improving the quality and frequency of short sea shipping (SSS) networks in the Caribbean. The methodology used a combination of stakeholder consultations; data-gathering on port infrastructure, trade, and shipping route patterns in the region; investigation of case studies of SSS experiences; identification of intervention scenarios; and formulation of a financial model to select the scenarios with the greatest potential for implementation, based in inter-island connectivity and time performance. Finally, the study presents governance and organizational considerations, as well as an action plan and schedule for the implementation of the selected networks. It is recommended that a “Direction Reversal Scenario” and a “Port Handling Tariff Reductions for Less-than-Container-Load (LCL) Containers” Scenario should be developed, preferably to a Ferry Service model.

(overview: https://publications.iadb.org/en/short-sea-shipping-network-and-finance-model-caribbean)

(source: http://idbdocs.iadb.org/wsdocs/getdocument.aspx?docnum=EZSHARE-570821333-4)

My Notes: The basis of this study is ‘short sea shipping (SSS) networks’ and it therefore treats with movement of people, vehicles or small scale trade as secondary. A ferry service is the inverse dealing with movement of people, and so on, as the primary service and shipping as secondary.

This top quality study recommends against a ferry service but does not completely eliminate it as it is not a feasibility study in its own right.

Ferry services may not be the preferred option but they are a primary means of moving people and vehicles, and have NOT been excluded. Ferries may end up be the 'least-worst' option by offering solutions that mostly meet the needs of these countries, despite the risks and costs. Moving people will elevate in importance since the CARICOM mandate of 'Free Movement of People', for work or to live, has been set out at the 45th meeting of CARICOM leaders. This decision effectively changes everything with regard to intra-Caribbean travel. This mandate also implies simplification of rules and regulations which will go some way to removing barriers that are currently seen as impediments to ferry services. Unless they start to offer ferries as a service, shipping companies cannot provide for moving people.

The study makes clear that a ferry service has costs associated with it that will make bulk shipping more expensive than by shipping alone. The study discusses the necessary role that subsidies will play in the first few years that such a service will require along with significant risks. It also discusses these risks and the need for simplification of rules and regulations. However, there are gaps that need to be filled. The most important gap is that passenger revenues are not dealt with directly but are only in a worksheet that is not included. Also, for shipping locally produced food, ferries might be better due to shorter distances and times.

The comparison to the Greek Islands is very telling. There, ferry services has been operating for some time, with subsidies. The ferries are viable, nonetheless, because of the enormous indirect benefits that would otherwise remain undeveloped. The study points to similar potential in the Caribbean with the southern Caribbean as having the most to gain from improved services.

The study discusses a range of financial, regulatory and operational issues to overcome but nowhere does it say that this is impossible. Key in any forward movement is thorough consultation among all stakeholders along with mitigation and sharing of risks.

The study states: “The chance of success is increased if the intervention is simple, does not require substantial change by individual governments, and has a low cost of implementation”. (Pg 15) Some of the regulatory issues may be simplified when the new rules regarding free movement of people are hammered out.

It is obvious that some form of improved transportation is necessary in the eastern Caribbean region. The need is for people to move around and this will not be addressed by offering improved shipping options alone. In addition, the role of improved transportation serves to boost economies and develop the workforce along with resilience and ability to deal with disasters that shipping services cannot address.

The establishment of a ferry service in the eastern Caribbean, south of St. Lucia is primarily designed to offer passenger and vehicular transportation. The offer of service for shipping goods and/or other bulky items that don’t fit well in aircraft is secondary. This might include bulk goods but also anything from bicycles to all manner of machinery.

Also, the study could not predict the CARICOM decision to advance the 'Free Movement of People'. Free movement of people, by definition, requires means of transport. In the present eastern Caribbean context, these are sketchy, at best. Radical improvements in air and sea connectivity are needed to advance the envisioned free movement of people. This needs to start now in order to be in place by the March 2024 deadline as hoped for in the CARICOM communique.

The issues of trans-border barriers will be likely dealt with in the upcoming liberalisation of free movement of people within CARICOM. This will inevitably lead to demand for improvements in transportation. Likely the largest part of the upgrades will centre on air services but there is still a place for sea transport to fill voids that air transport cannot.

The recommendations also need to be taken within the context of goals and recommendations in other studies including those by CARICOM and OECS countries.

Most importantly, the offer of service needs to fit within the parameters discussed in this study. However, evolving governance along with economic pressures may be changing this equation.

Notes from the fourth Trade Policy Review (TPR): OECS-WTO Members

- Main document, May 2023


These documents clearly support and commit OECS governments to improve local maritime transportation. There are absolutely unequivocal commitments made during this TPR. This considerably boosts commitments made in earlier WTO reviews. It would be difficult for OECS governments to argue against their own commitments made during this WTO TPR. These documents are all available online for your perusal.

Transportation costs are high in all OECS States, and have increased since the pandemic ... These adverse factors result in a high cost of doing business.

WT/TPR/S/437 • OECS-WTO Members, pg 5: Summary

31. Maritime transport policy continues to be formulated and implemented at the national level.
Vessel registration by non-locally incorporated bodies must be authorized by the minister responsible for maritime transport; the company must be established in and have its principal place of business in an OECS/CARICOM territory, with majority ownership by OECS/ CARICOM citizens.

WT/TPR/S/437 • OECS-WTO Members, pg 10
(source:https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/s437_sum_e.pdf) WT/TPR/G/437 • OECS-WTO Members, pg 11 - CLEARLY STATES:

“2.13. In the OECS Development Strategy, the specific objective for the tourism sector is to contribute to an environment that maximally leverages in a sustainable manner the tourism sector for generating output and creating jobs, thereby contributing to the attainment of GDP growth and reduced unemployment. The elements of the strategic framework for the sector is as follows: • Ease of intra-regional travel: implement a system of hassle free travel within the Economic Union; and improve access and transportation .

WT/TPR/G/437 • OECS-WTO Members, pg 14

“2.26. Despite some successes, the manufacturing sector in the OECS has not reached its full potential. Due to a combination of various factors, including repeated brushes with severe weather events, pressures from lower-cost regional competitors, and significant structural impediments, the sector remains an underdeveloped yet a vital component of the OECS region's economic base. The major challenges that are faced by OECS manufacturers, as documented in several sector studies, areinter alia:

2.34. The OECS Commission has also recognized the need for a specific regional MSME policy framework and through the CBU has initiated work towards this end. ... At the business ecosystem level, the policy would focus,inter alia,on access to ... transport and trade logistics.

WT/TPR/G/437 • OECS-WTO Members, pg 21

“4.19 More recently additional SWOTs for the Renewable Energy and Transportation sub- sectors have been completed. I did not find this analysis.

WT/TPR/G/437 • OECS-WTO Members, pg 27

“1.4. Our sustainable development agenda is guided by several sectoral objectives as indicated by the Ministry of Finance including:
2. Investing in climate resilient infrastructure -Interventions to increase investments in physical infrastructures, such as transport (sea, air, road) ... This will include innovative financing mechanisms for the development of climate-resilient transport ...

WT/TPR/G/437 • OECS-WTO Members, pg 55

3.2 National Export Strategy (NES)-2017-21
3.8. The NES was able to identify some of the key challenges which affect all sectors toinclude ... transport ...

WT/TPR/G/437 • OECS-WTO Members, pg 77

5.10. Strategically, the Government is pursuing the following objectives:
• Strengthening linkages between agriculture and other sectors, in particularly tourism andmanufacturing transport.

WT/TPR/G/437 • OECS-WTO Members, pg 84
“ ... weakened domestic demand, caused difficult access to credit, andexacerbated already high energy, transport, and telecommunications costs.


WT/TPR/S/437 • Grenada, pg 214 - Maritime transport 4.58. Grenada does not have a merchant marine.

4.60. Cabotage is not permitted. Inter-island ferry services are provided by Osprey Lines Ltd, a domestic carrier.


WT/TPR/S/437 • Saint Lucia, pg 394 - 4.3.5 Maritime transport and ports

4.78. Maritime transport accounts for over 90% of imports, and most agriculture products are exported by sea. Table 4.4 shows the movement of sea cargo over the 2017-21 period. The bulk of sea cargo experienced a sharp contraction in 2020 as a result of the pandemic and recovered only partly in 2021.


EU Statement at the 4th WTO Trade Policy Review of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, 3 & 5 May 2023


“In view of these challenging conditions, the EU must commend the block for its significant achievements in economic integration and the continued commitment to achieving ever-closer ties in other areas. The EU is also particularly impressed with the significant progress accomplished under the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

The EU knows very well that the force lies in unity. As a major supporter and donor of the Caribbean integration process, the EU continues to see the OECS as a forerunner of regional integration andwill back that process by all available means.”

OECS WTO Members Conclude Successful Trade Policy Review in Geneva


WTO Trade Policy Reviews @ Caribbean Trade Reference Centre

Trade Policy Review Body: OECS-WTO Members — Summary Observations

The small size of OECS-WTO Members makes them vulnerable to diseconomies of scale, both in the production of goods and the provision of government and other services. Participation in the integrated regional market being created by CARICOM seeks to address this problem.OECS-WTO Members are also faced with high labour and transportation costs, and are exposed to the effects of hurricanes. Exports suffer from these high costs and take place almost exclusively under preferential conditions, mostly to the European Union, the United States, andother CARICOM members; the main import sources are the United States, the United Kingdom, and CARICOM.

Given the small physical space of all of the economies, production possibilities are limited and most operations are of a very small scale. This small scale has also been conditioned by the narrowness of the domestic markets.Although there is a larger regional market, the transportation pattern has, in part, not allowed for any meaningful development of enterprise and joint production possibilities have remained largely unattainable. Again the historical pattern of insertion into the world economy shows itself in the lack of a proper intra-regional transportation network for goods in the Eastern Caribbean. Another dimension of the smallness of the economies is the fact that most are topographically mountainous which further reduces the available physical economic space which could be used for sustainable material production.

WTO's OECS Trade Policy Review: UK statement

The UK's Permanent Representative to the WTO, AmbassadorSimon Manley, gave a statement during OECS's fourth WTO Trade Policy Review (TPR), in which he states:

"Chair, we must stay alive to the individual challenges Members of this organisation face. As such, let me highlight the unjust environmental disparities faced by OECS Members, about which the Minister spoke so eloquently this morning.We must seek to champion trade and climate at the WTO, but also make it central to our own policies.

From the third TPR in 2014: (https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/s299_e.pdf) WT/TPR/S/299 • OECS-WTO Members, pg 59 Maritime transport
4.57.Maritime transport is also of major importance to the OECS-WTO Members, since the vast majority of OECS cargo trade is transported by sea. Even after the formation of the Economic Union, maritime transport policy continues to be formulated and implemented at the national level.Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines made commitments in maritime transport under the GATS, while no commitments were made by other OECS Members.

The Future of OECS Sustainable and Resilient Maritime Supply Chains


“The OECS maritime sector is of systemic and strategic importance given the region’s vulnerabilities to climate-related disasters and emergencies, in addition to its high susceptibility to external shocks. Ninety percent of Caribbean imports and exports are carried by sea,

while the Caribbean Sea has become one of the main global hubs for tourism. The OECS region already had challenges prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in integrating into global supply chains. Where regional supply chains exist, these remain fragile and uncertain, the release points out.

During his contribution at the Oceans Forum, Head of the Permanent Delegation of the OECS in Geneva,Colin Murdoch explained that simultaneous growth in globalization, containerisation, and cruise tourism has resulted in competition for berth space in many Caribbean ports. However,he noted that port infrastructure in the Caribbean has not always kept pace with changes in the global shipping industry and this has a direct impact on the region’s ability to engender sustainability and resilience in maritime supply chains.

Airline vs ferry subsidies

All OECS countries subsidise airlines to bring tourists from feeder markets. Therefore any argument made against subsidising ferries does not hold water. Subsidies are a common feature of all public transportation services because the benefits that accrue outweigh the expense. Subsidies if they are well-handled, can become an investment and not simply an expense which is how they are being portrayed.

Tobago subsidises British Airways to the tune of about $2 million USD annually and bring a few thousand visitors in. The cost per visitor for this subsidy is very high. Many of these visitors are repeat visitors and most stay at all-inclusive type resorts. Most (around 70%) of the revenue from these resorts returns to the parent company back in the UK or US and as a result very little money ever makes it into local economies. So, it is questionable whether these subsidies bring any benefit to the local economies.

Same story in Antigua, Grenada, St. Lucia and Barbados. Probably it is the same in St. Vincent.

The GORTT subsidises CAL for the air-bridge between Trinidad and Tobago for adult fares. Recently Tobago pulled out of subsidising Virgin Atlantic because the high cost was not delivering satisfactory results. The subsidy was similar to BA’s. Trinidad ended fuel subsidies to CAL long ago because of complaints from LIAT who said it was unfair competition. Instead of ending the fuel subsidy to CAL, they should have offered the same to LIAT and then we wouldn’t have the disaster in air transport that we see now. But that’s another story for another day.

The subsidy could be structured differently to bring fairness while still keeping services available and reliable. For example, link subsidies to promotional efforts on the part of the airline, such as advertising or actual numbers of ‘first-time’ arrivals. But some people don’t see it this way and say that airlines should not be subsidised. This clearly is not the answer in areas with routes experiencing relatively low usage.

COPA airlines, out of Panama, touted as being ‘unsubsidised’ does not offer any flights in the eastern Caribbean, except Barbados and Trinidad, locations that are already well-served … Any wonder why?

It is well known that the reason that LIAT has been severely cut back is because the countries will no longer subsidise LIAT operations. This makes no sense not to subsidise local carriers when handouts are freely doled out to foreign ones. The Caribbean is the third largest market for visitors TO the Caribbean, after the UK/EU and the US. These visitors have money and they spend it in local markets visiting friends and attending festivals, concerts, sports matches and so on. Big money.

But, due to the nature of public transport, and airlines in general, subsidies are necessary. Airlines could not operate in certain markets without them because these routes could never be profitable on their own. Ferries are no different. Ferries offer a public service that provides overall benefits and subsidies are a necessary variable in the equation because, without them, some routes would have difficulty generating a profit. This is even more true in the wake of the Pandemic. However, the route may still deliver economic benefits that make the payment of a subsidy money well spent.

In fact, ferry subsidies may bring more results because more people can use them as the means to transport goods and equipment that cannot be transported by air for reasons of cost or bulk size. So, the question becomes: Do we subsidise in order to get ’some’ benefit in terms of growth or not subsidise and linger in stagnation?

Read:The Pivotal Role Of Aviation In Caribbean Regional Integration by David Jessop, 2019 in which he states:

“Unfortunately, in the real world of Caribbean aviation political interference has meant that decisions are often based on petty nationalism and an absence of the efficiencies that the private sector usually brings. Consequently, governments subsidise foreign carriers to fly in, subsidise regional airlines, and subsidise fuel. Then, in response, they tax in multiple ways, travel and travellers, to recover what has been spent.
Clearly this is unsustainable and if not addressed soon, regional aviation, and by extension regional integration, is likely to continue its slow downward spiral.
Regrettably, the likely solutions to LIAT’s problems suggest that the current piecemeal approach to regional aviation will continue without any holistic attempt to address underlying problems such as the extraordinary range of taxes and charges levied by OECS governments, the sub-region’s inability to deliver an integrated approach to transport that includes fast ferry services , or it unwillingness to address protectionist approaches to route licensing”.

So, even in a discussion of airline subsidies, fast-ferry services still come into play and this is because the ferry can offer services that airlines simply can’t.

The calculation to determine whether a subsidy delivers value for money is complex. The only way to know is whether results are being seen in employment and new business ventures in the destination which in turn generate indirect economic activity. If the growth in these areas is real and sustainable then the likelihood is that subsidising public transport, either airlines or ferries, to bring people in is having a positive impact and the destination is getting value for money spent on subsidies.

Anything else is guesswork.

Unfortunately, Caribbean governments may have painted themselves into a corner by portraying subsidies as evil when the reality is that sometimes they are a necessary ‘evil’ in order to prime the pump. Economies in the eastern Caribbean will not see any growth without spending very large amounts on promotion or subsidies. Either way is expensive and the problem is that they won’t know until they try.

Fuel efficiency and carbon footprints of ferries vs aircraft.

More points to ponder …

A fresh look at comparing the two modes of travel is needed. Especially, post-pandemic, as costs for everything are increasing rapidly and making it necessary to look at point-to-point travel in new ways.

There are only two ways to travel intra-Caribbean: By air or by sea. So, any comparison of energy and carbon efficiency need only compare these two modes. In spite of this, calculating the relative carbon footprint of ferry travel vs air travel is still a complex task. Nonetheless, due to the fact that there exist only these two options, some data contained in comparing modes of travel don’t apply. All modes of transport are under heavy scrutiny to improve, and even eliminate their carbon loads.

The relative energy efficiency of a ferry depends on several key factors:

The assumption is that the distance travelled will be roughly similar. Slow ferries are usually more fuel efficient per passenger mile than high speed ones.

A ferry boat weighs much more than an aircraft, but its ability to carry other vehicles and equipment cannot be matched by an aircraft, so, in a way, comparing the relative fuel efficiency can’t be made. Also, the boat or aircraft is likely to make the trip regardless of whether it is full to capacity. Since studies cannot take the actual capacity usage into their calculations, this makes actual comparisons difficult. And, ferries can offer amenities that aircraft cannot.

Ferry port terminals are usually much more accessible and efficient relative to an airport terminal. Also, customs and immigration bureaucracy is greatly simplified for Caricom citizens.

Ferries have a major advantage relative to aircraft in that boarding and exiting an aircraft is more time-consuming. People with disabilities or other health issues also find this very challenging. As well, ferries usually dock near town centres so the cost and time taken to travel from the transit point to city centres or key sites within the destination is much less. The savings in time is usually not accounted for when comparing transit times. It goes without saying that vehicle engines are not running while in transit.

This is especially true for truckers carrying goods for delivery to points within the destination as these are usually located near ferry terminals. Ferries can be quite efficient from this perspective. Any argument in favour of such advantages must be weighed against the time spent by users awaiting the next departure back to their starting point. If there’s a long wait, then it might be more efficient to ship the goods in a packaged form ready for pick up by the recipient at the terminal. In any case, shipping goods by sea will almost always be cheaper than by air.

Aircraft are still seen as quick and convenient, despite the cost. But this is not always the case. So, ferry boats must also make a big effort to demonstrate that they are more environmentally friendly:

But doing so may also increase the cost of operating. Still these things would be seen as positive by passengers and therefore contribute to an overall impression that ferries are generally a more environmentally friendly choice. This factor will increase in importance as time goes on.

Ferries are important in that the ability to carry other goods, equipment and so on, is vastly greater than aircraft. So travel by ferry is necessary, especially in areas where the cost to travel by air is prohibitive.

Any study of the relative efficiency of ferries vs aircraft needs to look at the number of passengers that are carried on a typical flight or sea voyage. In most cases, the cost to travel is about half by ferry when compared to air but it takes much longer.

"Everyone wants to do their bit for the environment. That’s why approximately 4.2 billion people across the globe are choosing to travel by ferry in a bid to reduce their carbon footprint. As the issue of global warming continues to worsen each year, eco-friendly travel has become a prime concern among tourists when planning their next holiday abroad.

Many leading ferry companies have taken significant measures to minimise the volume of air pollution emitted into the atmosphere via hybrid technology and greener practices. Therefore, this article will show the many advantages of ferry travel and why it is one of the best ways of curtailing your impact on the environment”. (source: https://www.kayak.co.uk/news/eco-friendly-travel-by-ferry/)

“If we compare the ferry to flying or cruises, the ferry is an environmentally friendly choice. This is especially true when comparing the ferry emission to a short flight. Traveling as a foot passenger by ferry is the best option for minimizing your carbon footprint”.

The carbon footprint for a foot passenger on a ferry is only 19 grams per km. That is considerably less than the 244 grams per km for a short flight”. (source: https://ferrygogo.com/carbon-footprint/)

Note that this number may not be accurate for travel between Caribbean destinations.

But, this is not without its controversy, some argue that ferry travel is less efficient:

"The main advantage of ferries is that they offer shortcuts between destinations. Overnight ferry services are also an efficient way to travel.

Unfortunately, ferries generate high emissions – almost twice as high per passenger kilometre than flights. Almost all passenger ferries run on fossil fuels. One important factor for their emissions is the speed of the ferry. A high-speed ferry generates much higher emissions than a regular ferry. Other factors such as fuel type and fuel consumption and capacity utilisation also influence the emissions. It’s a good idea to ask the ferry company how much emissions they are causing and when they will start using electric ferries or ferries using renewable fuels. This will give them an additional signal that their passengers care about this". (source: https://travelandclimate.org/train-car-or-plane)

“Ferries clearly cannot claim automatic green superiority. "I have to admit that I rather enjoy ferry travel," says Kemp. "But if you start to do the analysis of that, it starts to look rather unattractive too, because of the power used to move not only the people, but the cabin, space for their car, the bars, nightclubs, and so on. I don't think there's much in it between taking the plane and taking the ferry.””

Analysing how modes of transport compare is fiendishly complex. Some trains are worse than others (faster trains consume up to four times as much energy, and diesels can emit more than twice the carbon dioxide of electric trains). Some high-speed ferries use double the fuel of conventional ships, making them several times worse than planes for carbon emissions. Ultimately, experts admit that given the right circumstances, any method of transport can be made to come out on top. (source: https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2007/jul/20/guardianweekly.guardianweekly1)

However, these arguments are only valid in places where one has more choices, such as travel by train or by car.

When all factors are taken in, the relative comparison of air travel and ferry travel is not directly possible. So, the case for one or the other must be made on the basis of whichever most closely meets the needs of the traveller.

See also:

Which form of transport has the smallest carbon footprint?; https://ourworldindata.org/travel-carbon-footprint

Planes, trains or automobiles: What's the most carbon-efficient way to travel?; https://www.salon.com/2017/08/30/planes-trains-or-automobiles-what-will-the-most-carbon-efficient-way-to-travel_partner/

Eco-Friendly Ferry Travel: Protect the Environment While on Holiday; https://www.ferryhopper.com/en/blog/featured/eco-sustainable-ferry-travel