The task force still working on improving Saba and Statia connectivity.

The Dutch government, together with public entities Saba and St. Eustatius and other stakeholders, is still working on improving the crucial connectivity between St. Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba, caretaker State Secretary of Kingdom Relations Alexandra van Huffelen said in a recent letter to the Dutch Second Chamber of Parliament in which she gave an update on the several issues on which the Task Force Bottlenecks Caribbean Netherlands is working.

Alexandra van Huffelen, Caretaker State Secretary of Kingdom Relations (D66)

One of those important bottlenecks is the connectivity of persons and goods between the three Windward Islands. According to Van Huffelen, connectivity is one of the crucial conditions for economic development, both by air and sea.

The Dutch government announced in June 2023 that they were looking into a potential public service obligation for flights from St. Maarten to Saba and St. Eustatius and vice versa. The cabinet also informed the Dutch Parliament that they had started preparations to amend the Caribbean Netherlands Aviation Law to make it possible to implement a public service obligation (PSO) if this proves to be desirable in the future. Van Huffelen expects to ask the Council of State for advice regarding the PSO in the second quarter of 2024. The Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations, together with other stakeholders, is currently evaluating the options to finance the PSO.

In a previous letter, Van Huffelen also informed the Dutch Parliament of the evaluation of the “Makana” ferry services between St. Maarten, Saba, and St. Eustatius. The “Makana” advisory board found that although the ferry is much appreciated and frequently used by the island’s citizens, the “Makana” is not yet cost-effective.

The board identified several bottlenecks, such as staffing issues, the limited capacity of the booking system and the inadequate harbor facilities on the islands. The biggest bottleneck has to do with border control by the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee and Customs. That is why the task force is researching whether it is possible to check the passports on St. Maarten.

Because the ferry is used by so many citizens, it is important to ensure the continuity of this service, emphasizes Van Huffelen. That is why the ministry has budgeted one million euros to subsidize the “Makana” ferry’s services between St. Eustatius, Saba, and St. Maarten in 2024 and 2025.

The Daily Herald

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