The three ferry companies — Native Son, Road Town Fast Ferry, and Smith’s Ferry are calling on the BVIPA to rescind this decision as they say there won’t be enough business to sustain an additional operator when the BVI reopens its seaports on April 15.
The existing ferry companies will have to downsize their operations when the seaports reopen.
There will only be one round-trip per day between the BVI and St Thomas in the neighbouring US Virgin Islands. This means each ferry will make a maximum of two round-trips per week when the BVI’s seaport reopens to international traffic.
In an interview with 284 Media, owners of these transportation companies said they recently received a phone call from the BVIPA where they were told to make space for another ferry operator that it had recently approved.
The ferry operators say they feel disrespected by the lack of consultation before the new operator was approved.
“The point isn’t whether or not it (the new ferry) was approved. Why is it even a topic of conversation, especially during these hard times? When you think of the market that we have to operate in — to add another business; it’s more than hard in my opinion,” said Janette Brin whose mother owns Smith’s Ferry.
Native Son operator Rose Christian said the timing of the new ferry operator is bad especially since the existing operators will be limited to 50 passengers per day when the ports reopen.
“That’s a cut of almost 200 per cent — the number of passengers we would have normally been able to carry. So you’re looking at a significant loss in revenue for each of the companies. In addition to that, we should have been respected enough to have a sit-down dialogue concerning bringing on another ferry company. Native Son has been in business for over 44 years, I think we deserve better than what we are receiving right now,” Christian explained.
The ferry operators say they’ve agreed to an existing schedule as of April 15 and were told by the BVIPA that they can revise this schedule to include more trips if business improves after 40 days.
Christian said she would prefer if the BVIPA evaluated the market after the initial 40-day period to determine if another ferry operator can be accommodated.
The owners of Smith’s Ferry suggested that the BVIPA placed a freeze on approving additional ferry operators until the market becomes stable. Majorie Smith — the owner of Smith’s Ferry — also suggested that the government conduct a feasibility study to determine whether the market can handle any additional ferry operators.
Here’s what the owner of Road Town Fast Ferry, Byron ‘Chucky’ Hodge, explained: “There’s nothing personal against the new ferry operator — he’s a friend of ours. It’s just that we’ve been operating for so many years. We’ve been hauling whatever came to the table. It’ a seasonal thing. We don’t see the need for another ferry operator right now. We have issues with the port never fixing the schedule. So how are you going to put another ferry to complicate things even more? Right now is not the right time.”
In the meantime, BVI News understands that the newly approved ferry operator is Derek Maduro, a businessman who is well-known within the community.