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Regional Officials Discuss Greater Caribbean Air, Maritime Connectivity

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On the recent Association of Caribbean States (ACS) Connectivity Conference on October 17-20, 2023, in Martinique, regional experts, policymakers, service providers and leaders within the transportation sector gathered to debate the critical role of air and maritime connectivity within the Greater Caribbean.

Mr. Kevin Hope, Head of the Regional Integration Unit on the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), emphasised the necessity to speed up regional integration through improved air and maritime connections:

“Transportation is the linchpin for development, with the facility to supply access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities, ultimately contributing to eight of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Greater Caribbean, a various region, boasts an intensive network of maritime and air transport that connects its nations to the worldwide stage.”

Referencing the OECS Revised Treaty of Basseterre of 2010 and the preceding original version of 1981, Mr. Hope said, “These treaties function a clarion call to deepen regional integration, promote economic growth and development, enhance competitiveness, and, above all, improve the welfare of the people. A key component in achieving these goals is the enhancement of air and maritime connectivity inside the OECS member states.”

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The OECS has been proactive in implementing measures to spice up efficiency, collaboration with development partners, and capability constructing for member states, prompting advantages of harmonisation, improved efficiency, reduced costs, increased trade and investment, enhanced regional integration, and an overall boost to economic growth and employment opportunities.

H.E. Rodolfo Sobonge, ACS Secretary General, said that transport is considered one of the association’s the five priorities when speaking on the Connectivity Conference,

“We’ve got 25 members that have to agree [on] what’s the problem, but in addition we’d like to agree what may very well be a feasible solution wherein all of them can profit. That is the role of the ACS.”

H.E. Sabonge outlined a two-phased approach to transportation reform by the ACS which might start with research into challenges and trends in transportation demand; after which follow with determining easy methods to strengthen existing transportation hubs within the region and where secondary hubs ought to be implemented.

Maritime shipping was noted as an important player within the region’s transportation landscape, but a variety of challenges were highlighted on the conference including inadequate regulatory frameworks, barriers to movement, outdated infrastructure, and expensive shipping and port charges.

Moreover, the maritime sector needs to enhance port capability, and customs operations.

The OECS is promoting intra-OECS travel, harmonising the legal and regulatory framework, and dealing with airlines to enhance connectivity and reduce airfares.

The OECS can be exploring the implementation of a Single Physical Passenger Security Check System and negotiating open-sky Multilateral Air Service Agreements to reinforce the region’s transportation network.

For maritime connectivity, the OECS is considering initiatives corresponding to developing a regional maritime shipping strategy, standardising customs and shipping procedures, establishing a maritime shipping pool, enhancing regulatory environments, improving employee skills, and inspiring private sector investment.

SOURCE: Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States

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