Ferry price increase postponed by a week as negotiations continue

Ferry price increase postponed by  a week as negotiations continue

ST. EUSTATIUS/SABA--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 whether 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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