Belearia bull...not passengers, its actually all about competing for Bahamas cargo and a needed MTSA terminal
Balaeria fails finding an export terminal in Miami for cargo, seeks shelter at Port Everglades
Broward County’s Port Everglades is courting a Spanish company to operate fast-ferry service to and from the Bahamas.
The Balearia company’s Bahamas Express ship, which can carry up to 463 passengers and up to 80 vehicles, docked at the Fort Lauderdale area seaport Thursday on a test run, port officials confirmed.
The ship had been slated to start operations this summer between the Port of Miami and the island of Bimini in the Bahamas. But plans have been delayed, partly because the Bimini seaport needs to be dredged and its pier improved to handle the fast-ferry, said Balearia executive Victor Terricabras.
Balearia now is looking at other options for the Express, including possible service to Freeport in the Bahamas, Terricabras said.
Port Everglades has been courting ferry companies from Europe and South America for months to consider service with Cuba, once U.S. regulations allow ferry service to the communist-led island. (See an earlier blog post here.)
The Obama administration has eased travel rules to Cuba and now allows charter flights from more U.S. airports for authorized U.S. visitors. Charters from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to Cuba are set to start in September, the Broward airport has announced. (See our blog post on the flights here.)
Service to the Bahamas could be a good first step for ferry companies to become familiar with Port Everglades and build a name for their services, said Carlos Buqueras, Port Everglades’ director of global business development.
“We have to start talking about this sooner instead of later,” to get Port Everglades on ferry companies’ radar as a base for potential Cuba business, Buqueras said.
The Bahamas Express ship features a cafe, duty-free store and casino aboard. The trip between Miami and Bimini was slated to take roughly 2 hours each way. For more information on the ship, visit www.ferryexpress.com.
Spain’s Balearia company operates 21 routes and 14 ships in the Mediterranean area serving such Balearic islands as Ibiza. Started in 1998, it handled almost 3 million passengers last year, according to its Web site at www.balearia.com.