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Possible trade boost
By Janelle Riley-Thornhill
A Netherlands-based merchant sailing company is seeking to do business in Barbados and if successful, there could be huge benefits for local manufacturers and farmers alike.
Jorne Langelaan, Captain of the Tres Hombres, an ambassador of a new fleet of sustainable hybrid sailing vessels operated by the Atlantis Merchant Sailing Company, has revealed that the 126-tonne vessel already does business in Europe, the Atlantic islands, the United States of America and some parts of the Caribbean, such as Grenada and the Dominican Republic, and they are hoping to add Barbados to that list.
The Tres Hombres was in Barbados last month to participate in the Mount Gay Rum Round Barbados Race, the only wind-powered vessel to do so, and while here Langelaan took the opportunity to talk with individual manufacturers, as well as officials of the Barbados Manufacturers’ Association (BMA).
Captain Langelaan explained during a recent interview with The Barbados Advocate, that if their bid to do business here is accepted, it could result in Barbados once again becoming a hub for trade in the region.
“The ship is running a business of sailing cargo from island to island, place to place and we are advertising the possibility of giving markets the opportunity of changing their modes of transport to environmentally clean transport using sail power – using the wind. We are also offering the possibility of being able to cover smaller distances with smaller shipments, less than container load cargoes, for manufacturers and traders,” he explained.
He added, “There is also the possibility of offering a service to producers here in Barbados to send their cargoes in frequent and economical ways, to different islands around the Caribbean, to places like Guyana and even to Suriname and to basically start up the tradition of schooners which so many people here still have fresh in their minds.”
Given the concerns with interregional trade, as well as high oil prices, Langelaan maintained that the advantages to the community, the economy and the environment of utilising schooners for trade are too important to overlook.
“Of course, for the producers the benefits are untold because they would be able to send their goods in a fast and inexpensive way and, by extension, the goods would be cheaper to the buyers. But, of course, it would be a real good thing if we started up this schooner business again to also make it possible for persons from Barbados to be trained as sailors. Once we start doing this and get the practice really deep into the culture of the country, so that schooners would be sailed by Barbadians and possibly owned by Barbadians also, the dividends on the cargo and the dividends of running this business in the country would not only make the economy stronger by having sound trade transport, but it would also benefit the island by being independent of investors from overseas,” he said.
Meanwhile, Executive Director of the BMA, Bobbi McKay, is quite excited by the prospects of the schooner business and what it can mean for Barbadian products getting greater exposure throughout the region. But, she warns that it would call for some changes to be made in the policies that currently exist with respect to cargo vessels.
“I have been speaking about this for the last five years and I am quite excited by it, but we are obviously going to have to do a lot of lobbying because the biggest challenge that I would see right now is some of the policies that exist at the Port.
“One of those issues is that these are small ships; these are not the big ships coming in so they would have to be going into the Shallow Draught. I went to a small ships meeting in Grenada in October and they are several small ships who bypass Barbados because of our port costs – it is too costly for those small ships. So we need to look at that. If they can find a way to work with the smaller vessels, at the end of the day the winner is Barbados – getting products out, getting raw materials in and getting produce in that we now import from Miami or other places that we should be getting from within the region,” she said.
McKay maintained that regional trade is not at the level it should be, and that ventures like this have the opportunity to enhance it – they need only be given a chance.