News Center

July 14, 2016

Direct Flights To Cuba Soon


June 23rd, 2016

By Everton Barnes

Intense negotiations are taking place in Havana, Cuba, on an air rights agreement between Antigua and Barbuda and the Spanish-speaking country.

Trade Minister, E.P. Chet Greene, who is in Cuba leading a trade mission there, said the discussions that had been ongoing some time ago and which had stalled, have now been revived with some purpose. Greene reported that the matter had gone beyond ‘a conversation’ to actual work in progress to get this to reach a conclusion.

“Ambassador Brian Challenger is back in Antigua working on a draft agreement on an air services agreement between the two countries. I have given the technicians one week to get the documents ready as I have invited the Cuban transport minister to visit St John’s for further and final discussions before signing of the agreement,” he disclosed.

The minister noted that travel between the Caribbean was what he termed ‘a nightmare’ noting that the present circumstances provided an opportunity to address this very serious matter.

He added that the recent meeting in Havana of the Association of Caribbean States, attended by Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, had given a mandate to improve both air and sea transportation between the Caribbean nations. “This initiative gives full support to the decision by the ACS at their recent meeting,” he observed.

The discussions in Havana are not only concerned with air transportation. He said issues related to opening up sea lanes between Caribbean states is a major challenge. “Since the demise of WISCO, (the West Indies Shipping Company) there has not been any indigenous Caribbean shipping line and while we have a number of lines operating through the region, there priorities may not be the same as ours,” he stated.

He reported that his team in Cuba is currently exploring ways in which this matter may be addressed in the future. He said these talks will continue and that he will have similar discussions on his return with people involved in the sea trade.

The trade minister lamented the fact that many businesses across the Caribbean have suffered because of the absence of reliable shipping lines between the islands.

He also reported that Leewind Paints has received feedback in Cuba but the issue is how to get the product into Cuba is a problem.