Leaders advance talks on setting up regional ferry service


At the request of the President of Guyana, His Excellency Dr. Irfaan Ali for the establishment of a common Ferry Service within Caricom, a high-level officials meeting was convened on Thursday 15th February 2024 in Trinidad at the Ministry of Works and Transport, Trinidad, and Tobago.

A delegation from Guyana was led by Public Works Minister Hon. Minister Deodat Indar, and included Mr. Brian Sears, Chief Plant Protection Officer, Ministry of Agriculture; Mr. Stephen Telford, Head of Immigration and Mr. Rohan Beekhoo, Comptroller Customs Excise and Trade, Guyana Revenue Authority.

The meeting which was chaired by Hon. Minister Deodat Indar included Senator the Hon. Rohan Sinanan Minister of Works and Transport (Trinidad and Tobago), the Hon. G.P Ian Gooding-Edghill, Minister of Tourism and International Transport (Barbados), Dr. Pauline Yearwood Deputy Programme Manager Directorate of Trade and Economic Integration (Caricom Secretariat) and other senior regional officials in the areas of Immigration, Customs, Plant Quarantine, Port Health, and Agriculture were also in attendance.

One of the many challenges identified by Heads of Government within Caricom in actualizing the regional objective stated in the Twenty-Five by 2025 Initiative, which is to reduce the regional food bill by 25% by the year 2025, remains the difficulty faced in transporting agricultural goods and people intra-regionally. It is with this in mind that the meeting was organised.

The meeting highlighted each country’s position and perspective in relation to this issue and each Minister took the opportunity to emphasise their commitment to the process of implementing the transportation system and to resolutely promote regional food security without compromising public health, security, and safety.

Toward this end, it was identified that the three countries were on the cusp of the formation of a Company to drive the process for the introduction of a regional ferry service. This Company would comprise Directors from each country to facilitate operations.

An inspection of the Galleon Passage in Port of Spain was conducted by ministers and technical officials followed by discussions also centered on the other areas of importance to the proposal for the common transportation system such as plant quarantine, including Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Matters and immigration, and Custom for the movement of people and goods for trade. A system for pre-clearance was also proposed for implementation.

The Heads of Customs, Immigration, and Plant Quarantine from Guyana, Barbados, and Trinidad & Tobago agreed that most systems were already in place, and can be adjusted to accommodate this, especially considering the existing Guyana and Suriname Ferry Service arrangement to facilitate this commitment by His Excellency the President of Guyana and the Hon Prime Ministers of Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago.

It was agreed that a team of technical officials from Trinidad & Tobago will visit Guyana and Barbados to inspect port infrastructure to accommodate the proposed ferry service within the next two weeks.

Respective delegates voiced their opinions on three main areas of immigration, customs, and plant quarantine, and at the end of the meeting decided that representatives from the three countries would meet to identify and resolve issues and prepare an interim report on harmonising in one months’ time.

A target date not exceeding two months was agreed to by all participants to complete the work of pre-clearance procedures for immigration, customs, and plant quarantine. The team agreed to work constantly to make the ferry service a reality as soon as possible.