A Barbados-based “environmentally-friendly” cargo ship is expected to begin an inter-island service in the third quarter of this year, transporting mainly agricultural produce.
A release from the University of the West Indies (UWI) today said the interior of the vessel, Schooner Ruth, was being fitted, with the focus on installing solar refrigeration equipment.
It was back in December 2014 that the pilot project was first announced by the Caribbean Sail Cargo Initiative of the UWI’s Cave Hill-based Centre for Food Security and Entrepreneurship in partnership with SV Ruth Ltd.
“What we want to do is create a sail cargo fleet where Schooner Ruth is the first ship, is operating sustainably, working within the green economy and is reducing consumption of fossil fuel,” SV Ruth Ltd Director Ian Dash said.
The vessel has a carrying capacity of 50 tonnes, however, Dash said those behind the project were already looking at a 400-tonne vessel if financing could be secured through the Climate Mitigation Fund. That vessel would service Guyana.
“In the future, we are looking at large vessels plying the Caribbean with highly technologically advanced sail systems, which can carry grain and other bulk commodities,” Dash added.
Dash said Barbados needed to reduce its reliance on food imports from outside the region and should consider imports from its Caribbean Community (CARICOM) neighbours like Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The Global Affairs Canada-funded Promotion of Regional Opportunities for Produce through Enterprises and Linkages (PROPEL) has been giving critical support to the Centre for Food Security and Entrepreneurship for the project. It has provided financing to the tune of US$70,000 and has committed a further US$37,000 in support of the refrigeration and solar components of the project..
“It is an environmentally-friendly mode of transportation. We like the idea that it is going to get produce across the Caribbean using refrigerated means and we can do training in agricultural practices, especially in terms of handling fresh produce,” Deputy Director of PROPEL Munish Persaud said.
“We would now like to get a little more involved from the market systems perspective because I believe that together, we would be able to see the boat sailing between Dominica and Barbados with fresh produce faster.”
A training component is attached to the Caribbean Sail Cargo Initiative. As a result, arrangements have been made with the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic for the provision of shore-based training in association with the Caribbean Fisheries Development Institute, the UWI release said.