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New ferry service coming

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – The Trinidad and Tobago government says it will back a fast ferry service for the Eastern Caribbean being established by a Barbados-based group, Transport MinisterDevant Maharaj has said.
Speaking after the weekly Cabinet meeting on Thursday, Maharaj said that the a  team had been appointed  to negotiate with Fast Caribbean Ltd on the proposal that government regards as being an important step in deepening the regional integration movement.
“Fast Caribbean Ltd, Barbados-based consortium, will charter from owners Montrose Global a 112-metre wave piercing catamaran similar to those operating on the Trinidad and Tobago route,” Maharaj said, adding that a minimum capital start up of US$12 million was required for the service.
He said that the private sector team was proposing to raise some US$20 million.
“What the government is contributing to this is forming part of the negotiations. It includes how they would like to see our fuel price locked in at a particular rate, facilities at the Port Authority, requests in terms of fuel and lubricant duties and tariffs, corporate tax concessions. The government of Trinidad and Tobago is facilitating. We are not putting in any cash,” Maharaj said.
He told reporters that the company had already agreed to provide 100,000 seats annually at a special price of US$10 a ticket but that the average price for a seat would be between US$25 and US$35.
“This fast ferry proposal which the team would be reviewing proposes to launch the service in 2012 and it would be headquartered in Port of Spain,” Maharaj said, insisting that the Kamla Persad Bissessar coalition government would not be putting any cash into the venture.
According to Maharaj, under the first phase of the project, the ferry will service the islands of Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Lucia and Barbados.
The catamarans would leave the Port of Port of Spain at 6 a.m. and arrive in Barbados (the last stop on its route) at 6 p.m (local time).
Maharaj said once commercial viability is achieved additional routes would be added.
Foreign Affairs Minister Surujrattan Rambachan said the ferry would help promote tourism, while Trade Minister Stephen Cadiz said it would bring cheaper freight charges for businesses in the region.