Ferry Empress to Continue Servicing Montserrat Until 2025

The Government of Montserrat has agreed to extend the contract with the owners of MV V2VFerry Empress into 2025.

According to Premier Joseph Farrell under which Access falls, Cabinet has agreed to extend the contract to April 2025. He said this was necessary to provide continuity of services, adding that they will be putting out a tender later in the year for long term ferry service.

Farrell was speaking with Viona Alexander-Smith, the Director of Information & Communication in a live interview on ZJB Radio Montserrat on Thursday morning. They spoke about the recently concluded St. Patrick’s Festival, access and a recent trade and investment mission to Antigua.

Premier Joseph Farrell speaks with Director of Information & Communication Viona Alexander-Smith at the ZJB Radio Montserrat studio.

The MV V2V Empress was initially contracted for a period of five months to provide transportation between Antigua and Montserrat. During this time, it has also provided day trips to Nevis, Redonda and round-the-island tours. The 190-seater passenger ferry is owned by NAVIYUC S.A. de C.V., a Mexican shipping company.

“We are proud to be able to continue serving the community. This represents the effort, not only of the boat but of all the people involved: Immigration, customs, port authority, agents, crew and the excellent coordination work of the access department,” the ferry company wrote in a comment about the announcement. “We hope to reflect this vote of confidence in a friendly, reliable, safe service as up to now.”

Farrell said April to October are the slowest months for travel and Cabinet has asked the Access Division to submit a marketing plan and schedule for the coming year in order to attract more visitors to the island.

Over the past five years, the premier added, they have seen the benefits of ferry access for the island. (The last long-term contract ended in September 2020.)

The premier revealed that operating the ferry service costs the government XCD $17 million a year, inclusive of agency fees, immigration and customs services in Antigua and other island. The ferry provider receives about XCD $10million minus taxes.

One of the reasons, ferry service is so expensive the leader said is the requirement that the vessel be compliant with the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). This expense he added, is passed on to the government.

The premier said he was very pleased with this year’s St. Patrick’s Festival and agreed that more investment was needed to allow the event to continue to grow. Government investment, he noted, needed to be supported with the data. Figures released at the end of the festival, said almost 3000 travelled to Montserrat between March 1 and 18th. The V2V Empress ferry service accounted for 1726 of the travellers.

In speaking about the long-term plans for access, the premier said, “I don’t know that a ferry is the answer. But we cannot grow our economy with a nine-seater aircraft.”

Farrell went on to speak about the challenges in getting larger aircraft to fly to the island due to new regulations.

He revealed that Lagan Aviation Infrastructure company which worked on the John A. Osborne Airport plans to visit in May 2024, at their own expense to assess what can be done to expand the possibility for the current runway to allow for larger aircraft to safely bring passengers to the island.