Monday, May 9, 2011

Traveling between the Cape Verde islands by ... Fast Ferry

One of the biggest transportation challenges in Cape Verde faced by residents, businesses and tourists alike is movement between the islands of Cape Verde. It is a particularly daunting challenge because the islands are relatively far apart in terms of maritime distances.

The islands are served by air transportation via TACV, the local airline, but the cost of air transportation is relatively more expensive than by sea. In addition, it is virtually impossible to move large quantities of goods by air. And worse, the islands of Santo Antao, Brava and Maio do not have airports - so air travel is not an option to those destinations.

However, the local ferry services are quite unreliable, crowded and service is very spotty. The only exceptions are the ferry between islands which happen to be close to each other - like Sao Vicente and Santo Antao, or Santiago and Fogo, yet even so they are not necessarily 100% reliable. But if, for example, you were looking to enjoy the beauty of the Brava, a stone's throw from Fogo, you had better be sure that your schedule has a few days of flexibility - you might get to Brava by ferry, but you'd have no idea if you could actually return on the appointed day.

The local residents of the islands hardly had a choice ... they simply had to put up with it ... until now, with the introduction of a new modern ferry service - Cape Verde FastFerry!

FastFerry is a result of a partnership between private enterprise and the government. The company made the first initial public offering issued on the Cape Verde financial exchanges, Bolsa de Valores. The company's operations were launched in 2010, and the first ferry, the m/v Kriola, took to the waters for its maiden voyage in early 2011. It now boasts a daily schedule of fast, round trips between Santiago, Fogo and Brava. The ferry is capable of transporting approximately 160 passengers and 65 tons of freight including automobiles. However, the ramps necessary to load and unload freight are not yet installed. As soon as those are installed, the FastFerry is likely to see even more ridership plus freight.

Technical problem leaves Kriola adrift for several hours After a few months in service, the FastFerry's Kriola was struck by a malfunction in one of its diesel generators. This happened just a day ago on May 6, 2011. According to local reports, the ferry was adrift between Santiago and Fogo for about 4 hours before a tug boat arrived to bring it to the port in Praia for quick repairs. I guess that day, the ferry was not particularly fast for the affected patrons. But all is well that ends well and such hiccups are to be expected every now and then. But FastFerry is a well run, modern corporation with public and private stakeholders. Unlike the other ferry services which sometimes go out of service for months at a time, there is no doubt that FastFerry has the resources and the incentive to properly service its vehicles and to consistently keep them in service.

Finally, a second ferry, the m/v Liberdadi is expected to be placed into operation in the coming months and will serve the other islands.

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