Cargo ferry offering fast Miami-Bahamas run
By Victor Cruz
A Norwegian ferry company is developing a new cargo business while simultaneously carrying passengers aboard fast-speed shuttles from the Port of Miami to the Grand Bahamas.
"We are looking to serve two markets," said Jorn Rokaas, managing director of the Bermuda office for Fred Olsen Express, which runs the dual passenger-cargo enterprise between Miami and Lucaya Harbour.
The company, he said, will tap the many tourists who visit South Florida throughout the year and, with a ship equipped to carry up to 32 20-foot containers, is designed to become a growing provider of cargo service as well.
"The Bahamas imports everything," Mr. Rokaas said. "It will take longer to develop the cargo side of the business. But in a couple of years that will change."
Port of Miami figures indicate that the Grand Bahamas imported 12,032 tons of cargo and exported 7,443 tons through Miami last year.
The company's Bonanza Express, which docks at the Port of Miami's Terminal 12, holds 630 passengers, can carry 180 cars and has a cruising speed of 43 mph. It reaches the Grand Bahamas in less than three hours. It arrives daily at the Port of Miami at 1:30 p.m. and departs at 3:30 p.m.
The Bonanza Express, a 2-year-old ship, was part of a three-vessel, catamaran-style fleet in the Canary Islands, Mr. Rokaas said. He said the success of the ships there prompted the company to pursue the ferry cargo and tourist venture in Miami.
"This is the new art in the business," Mr. Rokaas said of the craft.
He said the key to the ship's speed and stability, both critical factors in the daily cruise business, is its unique hull design built to pierce through waves. The technology for this sort of vessel, Mr. Rokaas said, has only been around for the past five years.
Fred Olsen Express is a subsidiary of two long-established, publicly traded Norwegian companies Bonheur Asa, a limited, and Ganger Rolf.
"We are a global company with 150 years experience in the shipping industry," Mr. Rokaas said.
He said the Fred Olsen family has a controlling interest in the two companies, which own and operate oil drilling facilities, cruise ships, crude oil ships and run other ferry services around the world.
A previous daily cruise operation to the Bahamas out of Miami shut down about one year ago, Port of Miami officials say. But Mr. Rokaas said he does not anticipate a similar scenario.
He said the previous firm, Bay Ferries Ltd., which runs ferry services in Canada, lost its focus on Miami during the tourist off-season.
He said his company intends to give Miami passengers and cargo year-round attention.
"This new service gives us more options than the multi-day cruises we now have available," says Trenae Floyd, spokesperson for the Port of Miami.
Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian cruise lines offer services from the port on vessels that can hold about 3,000 passengers.
Adults can travel on the Bonanza Express for $115, plus taxes. Infants travel free and children between 3-12 can travel free except on weekends beginning Friday, when they pay half the adult fare.
Adults can carry two full-sized luggage containers. Cargo costs are 15 cents a pound.
Details: (866) 238-34077.