Ferry price increase postponed by a week as negotiations continue

A significant in­crease in ticket prices for the “Makana” Ferry Service were set to take effect today, Wednes­day, but the planned rate hike has been postponed for a week as negotia­tions continue about the terms of a public service obligation (PSO) con­tract.

Earlier this month, the operators of the popu­lar ferry between St. Maarten, St. Eustatius, Saba and St. Kitts an­nounced that they were raising ticket prices by an average of 30.8% due to “unresolved” contract negotiations.

On Tuesday, the Saba government and the Makana Ferry said in separate statements that prices will remain un­changed for a week while negotiations are ongoing.

“Negotiations will con­tinue with all parties in­volved, with the aim of reaching mutually ben­eficial agreements,” the Saba government said on Tuesday.

In December 2023, an adult round-trip ticket to St. Maarten was $110 from Saba, $106 from St. Eustatius and $199 from St. Kitts. This was the last time full prices were published on the ferry’s Facebook page.

The 72-foot catamaran first began providing ferry services between Saba, St. Eustatius and St. Maarten in late 2021 after the Dutch Min­istry of Infrastructure and Water Management granted a subsidy of two million euros for two years.

With the PSO agree­ment set to expire at the end of last year, the gov­ernments of Saba and St. Eustatius had requested a new subsidy from the Dutch government for this “vital maritime con­nection,” arguing that the “Makana” offers an affordable and accessi­ble alternative to current expensive flight connec­tions to St. Maarten.

However, caretaker Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and King­dom Relations Alexan­dra van Huffelen an­nounced last December that the subsidy would only be one million eu­ros for 2024 and 2025.

It is still unclear whethcr the reduced subsidy is at the core of stalled ne­gotiations for a new PSO contract.

An evaluation done by the ferry’s advisory board in the second quarter of 2023 concluded that the “Makana” does not need as much subsidy as it did in 2021, but still requires additional funds due to increased operational expenses, including fuel. The 150-seat “Makana” ferry is operated by An­guilla company Blues and Blues Ltd.

The Daily Herald.

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