The New York-based company, which specialises in maritime infrastructure and real-estate development, is hoping to tap into the three million cruise and stopover visitors as well as locals for its north coast ferry service which will run between Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Negril.
Paradise Express, headed by Garry Johnson, who is of Jamaican parentage, will seek funding from the EXIM Bank Jamaica as well as the Development Bank of Jamaica for the project which should see “at least 140 Jamaicans hired”.
The ferry service will transport visitors between the Sangster International Airport and the outlying resort hotels in Ocho Rios and Negril, the company said. It is also intended to cater to passengers who wish to traverse the north coast via ferry instead of regular vehicular traffic.
Details of the project were revealed at the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Paradise Express and the Port Authority of Jamaica at the offices of the Jampro in New Kingston on Tuesday.
Much of the funding for the maritime transport service is coming from the United States in the form of institutional and individual investment, as well as EXIM Bank and DBJ, which is providing some of the debt financing, “so that it’s a combination of offshore and onshore funding”, Johnson told Gleaner Business following the signing of the MOU.
One-third of the US$30 million is Jamaican debt, through EXIM Bank, Johnson said.
The MOU will give Paradise Express Ferry access to government-owned lots on the Montego Bay waterfront through a long-term lease agreement to be negotiated with the Urban Development Corporation (UDC).
Paradise Express Ferry will use the small craft jetty and terminal building at the cruise ship terminal at Montego Freeport for embarking and disembarking of passengers.
A temporary pier will be constructed to facilitate the service by the fourth quarter of this year until a permanent pier is built, Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Anthony Hylton said at the signing.
The ferry service should begin by February 2015.
The main parcel of land, on which the company will construct retail shops and a board walk, is about an acre with approximately 500 feet of waterfront adjacent to Pier One in Montego Bay, Johnson told Gleaner Business.
“The property will house the ferry terminal, which itself will house our local offices as well as retail operations such as restaurants, duty-free gift shops and maybe a jewellery store,” he said, adding the facility will feature the typical amenities of a tourist destination.
A 30,000 square-foot building will be constructed, with sufficient space for rentals. “Approximately 15,000 to 16,000 square feet of retail space will be rented to local businesses, adding to the employment of more local people,” Johnson said.
Paradise Express Ferry has projected that it will break even and start turning a profit on the project within three years.
“There is a significant investment in infrastructure that is required. Although we are leasing government lands, we have to build a boardwalk, build the piers and do the marketing, but we feel we will be profitable after the first 2.5 to three years based on the numbers that we have,” he said.
The company’s fleet will comprise three “high-speed catamaran ferries” outfitted with beverage service and air conditioning.
“Once on-board, they will be able to relax in comfortable airline-styled seating and be able to walk around the vessel while they travel along the north coast,” he said.
The company hopes to transport 600,000 passengers by its fifth year of operation.
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