Oranjestad/The Bottom- While some are positive about the awarding of a contract to the Blues & Blues Ferry service, many residents are also hesitant and some disappointed about the results of the bidding.
Various residents express scepticism about the willingness of residents to use the ferry as an alternative to air service. “Our seas are different”, says one resident. “There are often high seas and the time to get to St. Maarten, via Saba, will take a lot of time”.
“This was tried so often and it has always failed”, says another. Criticism also exists on the process itself. Criteria for the awarding of the bid were, acccording to some, not very transparent and at least not made public. “How can we trust a process if it is not done in a transparent way”, one resident notes in conversation with the BES-Reporter.
Many question the fact that the bidding for the process was put in such a way that local operators, like The Edge in Saba, could not qualify. “But The Edge has served us well for many years”, says Dave Levenstone, who questions what the contract and subsidy provided to Blues & Blues at the tune of 2 million Euros over a 24 month period will mean for The Edge. Levenstone not only is the former Head of Economic Affairs on Saba, but also leader of the extra parliamentary opposition party UPM.
Another critical opinion is heard from Statian Councilman Koos Sneek. “It is a pity that this idea was conceived by officials in The Hague without involving us. The reason? This puts the long-standing call for a PSO for aviation to the side and justify inaction on the part of the I&W Ministry,” says Sneek.
Sneek also point to the fact that the conditions of the bid meant that only foreign companies could register. Sneek calls the awarding of the contracy and subsidy to Blues & Bleus ‘unfair competition’. “The provider on Saba will be doomed to end the activities”.
Many wonder why a company and service which still has to prove themselves receive an outright subsidy, while providers like Winair and SXM Airways on the Windward Islands, and Divi Divi Air and EZ air on the route between Bonaire and Curaçao do not. “While they have provided service for years and have a proven track record, none of these airlines receive a single dime in Government Subsidy”, says an insider, who describes himself as being ‘flabbergasted’.
A report compiled by a committee headed by former KLM CEO Peter Hartman compiled an advice to the I&W Ministry to make tickets cheaper and provide additional income to the local airlines. The report, so far, has been consistently ignored by former Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen and her staff. Now that Van Nieuwenhuizen has quit her position to become a lobbyist for the energy sector, implementation of the recommendation by the Hartman Committee are futher away than ever.
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