New Bahamas ferry prepares to set sail

admin | 12/14/2011, 7:30 a.m.

The new ferry system linking South Florida to the Bahamas was set to open last Friday, December 9th. However, Balearia, the Spanish company that owns and operates the high-speed ferry, Bahamas Express, has delayed its debut until at least Tuesday, Dec. 13th. Its the second attempt to connect Miami to the Bahamas in a low-cost boating adventure.

We delayed our debut because of a lack of documentation, said Enrique Diaz, 28, media relations/customer service supervisor for Balearia. We have to complete a few specific documents with the Coast Guard that will permit us to travel the waters with passengers. That is the only thing that has held us up right now. You may have seen our ships leave the dock but without that documentation we cant have passengers.

The Bahamas Express is set to begin its shuttles just two months after Discovery Cruise Line ended its service on the same route.

The new service will replace the route run by Discovery Cruise Line for nearly 20 years before the company went out of business in October, said Phil Allen, port director, in a previously released statement.

The ferry service which has partnered with Miami-based Capo Group, is operating the shuttle that will sail from Fort Lauderdales Port Everglades to Grand Bahama Island. Trips, scheduled to last about two-and-a-half hours in calm seas, will be available everyday except Wednesday. Despite the delay, hopes are still high for a successful shuttle that will link the two countries.

"A new ferry service to the Bahamas provides an opportunity for the overall economic development in the Bahamas," said Rhoda M. Jackson, 51, consul general, Bahamas Consulate General. "The Bahamas and the U.S. share historical ties. Because we depend so heavily on tourism, it is important to provide a wonderful escape. The U.S. remains an important partner for economic development and we have throughout the years maintained friendly relations. The new ferry provides greater opportunities to strengthen this relationship."

Johnson Sands, 55, former counsel general of the Bahamas from 2008-2010 agrees.

Im sure that this is a credible service the Bahamian government does their research, she said. I think that any initiative that joins us together with South Florida will be beneficial to both economies something like this grows business. By Randy Grice rgrice@miamitimesonline.com