KINGSTOWN: The St. Vincent and the Grenadines government says it will provide a number of concessions, including a US$100,000 loan, to passenger ferries operating between the mainland and the Grenadines.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said that the US$100,000 loan would go to the owners of the MV Jaden Sun, after it had announced a suspension of its services until further notice. The money would be used to replace a damaged engine.
“The fast ferry is an important service, and the fast ferry is very expensive to run,” said Dr. Gonsalves while announcing concessions on fuel for all passenger ferries operating within the island. “Of course, the fuel has to be bought through the bonded warehouse system, so that you have a reputable dealer you are dealing with. That will save the fast ferry just over $1,000 a day.”
Gonsalves said discussions had also been held with owners of other ferries and that the loan would be repaid at four per cent interest per annum over a 10-year period.
Gonsalves said that a similar offer is open to Jeffery King, owner of Barracuda, which had to replace one of its two engines and two gearboxes recently.
The funds for the loan come from PetroCaribe, the oil alliance of some Caribbean states with Venezuela to purchase oil on conditions of preferential payment.
“We have done a lot of work in the Grenadines…but when you see a government goes out of its way like this and acts in this manner concerning an issue of transportation – sea transportation, you know that this is a government which wants to see our multi-island state to be one always, and the links must be solid,” said Gonsalves. “Now, hopefully, we would not see the rapid increase in fares that we have been seeing in some of the ferry services.”
Gonsalves said the assistance to the ferries were similar to the government’s move to invest in the regional airline, LIAT.
“I think it is a good use of government resources to help with something which is of vital importance to us, in the same way that we use resources to help St. Vincent link with the rest of the region through LIAT,” he said. “It is the same principle. Different context, but same principle.”