Amid pushback from existing operators against the introduction of a new ferry operator, government legislator Alvera Maduro-Caines has fired back; saying the introduction of a new operator will give travellers more options.
Maduro-Caines voiced her opinion in a series of Facebook posts while the disgruntled ferry operators were being interviewed live on 284 Media recently.
Maduro-Caines said a new ferry service will help to solve the problem where people are constantly stranded on islands because of the shortage of ferries.
“Years now people getting stranded in St Thomas or Tola, especially during festival, carnival, and Christmas. Help is on the way and we still have a problem,” Maduro-Caines stated in one post.
Our Carib’n neighbours have up to half dozen
She mentioned some neighbouring Caribbean countries that have as many as a half-dozen competing ferry companies plying routes in their respective markets.
“St Kitts, Anguilla, Nevis, St Marten all have at least five to six ferry companies. People will travel with who they want,” Maduro-Caines pointed out.
During the interview, Majorie Smith — the owner of Smith’s Ferry — suggested that the government conduct a feasibility study to determine whether the market can handle any additional ferry operators.
However, Maduro-Caines questioned this suggestion in disbelief. She said: “So if I want to open a shoe store, you telling me a readable study will have to be done to see if I can sell shoes?”
Surprised by the legislator
In response, Smith said she was disappointed with Maduro-Caines’ statement; especially since ferry operators provide a much-needed public service.
“I’m really surprised that the minister would not understand what our plight is. This has nothing to do with personal feelings. It has to do with how the politicians that we’ve elected find that balance between keeping existing businesses and growing our economy; seeing where existing needs are and not stifling our economy by allowing an excess of certain things,” Smith explained during the interview.
The three existing ferry companies that ply the route between the BVI and the USVI — Native Son, Road Town Fast Ferry, and Smith’s Ferry — are calling on the BVI Port Authority to rescind the decision to allow a new ferry company to operate as of April 15.
They say there won’t be enough business to sustain an additional operator when the BVI reopens its seaports on April 15.
In the meantime, BVI News understands that the newly approved ferry operator is Derek Maduro, a businessman who is well-known within the community.
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