OECS Media Release
Thursday, November 23, 2023 — At the recent Association of Caribbean States (ACS) Connectivity Conference on October 17-20, 2023, in Martinique, regional experts, policymakers, service providers and leaders in the transportation sector gathered to discuss the critical role of air and maritime connectivity in the Greater Caribbean.
Mr. Kevin Hope, Head of the Regional Integration Unit at the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), emphasised the need to accelerate regional integration through improved air and maritime connections:
“Transportation is the linchpin for development, with the power to provide access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities, ultimately contributing to eight of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Greater Caribbean, a diverse region, boasts an extensive network of maritime and air transport that connects its nations to the global stage.”
Referencing the OECS Revised Treaty of Basseterre of 2010 and the preceding original version of 1981, Mr. Hope said, “These treaties serve as a clarion call to deepen regional integration, promote economic growth and development, enhance competitiveness, and, above all, improve the welfare of the people. A key component in achieving these goals is the enhancement of air and maritime connectivity within the OECS member states.”
The OECS has been proactive in implementing measures to boost efficiency, collaboration with development partners, and capacity building for member states, prompting benefits of harmonisation, improved efficiency, reduced costs, increased trade and investment, enhanced regional integration, and an overall boost to economic growth and employment opportunities.
H.E. Rodolfo Sobonge, ACS Secretary General, said that transport is one of the association’s the five priorities when speaking on the Connectivity Conference,
“We have 25 members that need to agree [on] what is the problem, but also we need to agree what could be a feasible solution in which they all can benefit. This is the role of the ACS.”
H.E. Sabonge outlined a two-phased approach to transportation reform by the ACS which would start with research into challenges and trends in transportation demand; and then follow with determining how to strengthen existing transportation hubs in the region and where secondary hubs should be implemented.
Maritime shipping was noted as a vital player in the region’s transportation landscape, but a range of challenges were highlighted at the conference including inadequate regulatory frameworks, barriers to movement, outdated infrastructure, and expensive shipping and port charges. Additionally, the maritime sector needs to improve port capacity, and customs operations.
The OECS is promoting intra-OECS travel, harmonising the legal and regulatory framework, and working with airlines to improve connectivity and reduce airfares. The OECS is also exploring the implementation of a Single Physical Passenger Security Check System and negotiating open-sky Multilateral Air Service Agreements to enhance the region’s transportation network.
For maritime connectivity, the OECS is considering initiatives such as developing a regional maritime shipping strategy, standardising customs and shipping procedures, establishing a maritime shipping pool, enhancing regulatory environments, improving worker skills, and encouraging private sector investment.