February 28, 2014
Ferries to receive duty-free concession on fuel

Cashena Gooding, director of the Jaden Inc, says that the latest development surrounding ferry service between St Vincent and the Grenadines is “a very good thing.”{{more}}

Gooding, speaking to SEARCHLIGHT earlier this week, said that discussions, made public by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, concerning concessions on fuel, as well as other incentives to the company that operates the island’s lone fast ferry, are a wonderful thing that would benefit ferry operators, as well as the persons who make use of the services.

“What the Prime Minister is promising us is a good thing; it is good for us and it is good for St Vincent and the Grenadines, because everybody will benefit.”

On December 20 last year, SEARCHLIGHT, in an article, confirmed that the Jaden Sun was no longer on the waters, because the vessel had lost one of its two engines, which Gooding had indicated would be very expensive to replace.

During a press conference on Monday, Gonsalves announced that all ferries that transport passengers throughout the Grenadine islands, would now receive duty-free concessions on fuel.

“I went about it and I got the Cabinet to agree to the following thing: not just only for the fast ferry… to give all the ferries that carry passengers, duty-free concession on the fuel. Of course, the fuel has to be bought through the bonded warehouse system….

“… Figures indicate that it’s six thousand dollars worth of fuel they (Jaden Sun) burn on a round trip…. That would save the fast ferry just over a thousand dollars a day; so if they travel 350 days in the year that’s $350,000. But it’s not only for them, but also for Jeffery King of the Barracuda and for those which come out of Bequia too. And I spoke to Jeffery King about this.

“Then they (Jaden Sun) need a certain amount of patronage from the Government, and I agreed to buy annually the equivalent in one thousand tickets a day for up to 300 days; that’s $300,000…. I don’t have to use the tickets every day, we could bunch them….

“The ferry was losing money and (that) therefore puts them in difficult position for them to go to the bankers. They would have had to pay 10, 12, maybe more (per cent) in interest per year, so we are lending them US $100,000 for the engine at four percent, using Petro Caribe money, over 10 years with two years’ grace,” Gonsalves announced.

The Prime Minister said that he also made the offer to Jeffery King of the Barracuda, a conventional ferry that also plies the Grenadines waters, and had just had an engine changed.

Gooding said that if all goes according to plan, it is the hope of the company to have the Jaden Sun back in the waters in time for Easter, but there was no guarantee.

She said that the engine had to be sourced from Croatia in Eastern Europe, and could take as long as three weeks to get to St Vincent, after all the paperwork concerning the loan has been approved and payments to the engine’s seller were made.

The director called the developments an all round advantage, for the company, passengers, other ferry operators, and the government as well.

“It is a loan; we have to pay back for it, but we are getting a very good interest rate….

“The duty-free concession on fuel is also a good thing for us, because every little bit counts. The difference between duty-free and duty-paid fuel could be about a dollar, so it could save a thousand dollars or so every time we have to buy fuel, but it will add up over a period of time.

“The concession on the tickets… that will be a win-win situation there, where we will gain and the government people will benefit there as well.

“And the good thing, because of our situation too, is other ferry operators will benefit because of it, because other ferry operators are going to receive concessions on their fuel, so it think it is a good thing for everybody,” Gooding stated.

SEARCHLIGHT also spoke to Maxwell Burke, Captain of the MV Guidance II, which also transports passengers and cargo to and from the Grenadines.

Burke also welcomed the fuel concession, believing that the allowance should have been implemented a long time ago, but nonetheless “better late than never.”

“It is a good thing…. It’s a little, but they say ‘one-one full basket’. I thank God for it.” Burke said. (JJ)