Carrier starts Caribbean service
LIAT (Leewards Islands Air Transport) has officially launched its intra-Caribbean cargo service at an event in Barbados.
This follows the carrier’s conversion last year of a Dash-8 100 aircraft to full cargo configuration, with the aim of providing regional farmers and exporters with a more reliable air bridge for supplying produce to neighboring islands.
“While the transport of various forms of cargo is nothing new to LIAT, this signals an important milestone in the evolution of the company’s air cargo business as we move towards the formal introduction of an aircraft dedicated exclusively to the movement of air cargo throughout our islands as well as into Guyana," said LIAT CEO Brian Challenger. "Prior to the start of this service, persons and businesses wishing to move airfreight through our islands were largely dependent on the availability of space on scheduled passenger planes. This was particularly risky for perishables."
Before joining LIAT, Challenger said he had been involved in shipping high-value agricultural produce such as cut flowers from St. Lucia to the US Virgin Islands, but he recalled “many shipments being aborted due to lack of adequate airfreight capacity." He hoped the new service would serve as a springboard for the development of productive export capacity across the Caribbean.
The carrier’s director of cargo and QuikPak, Wilbur Edwards, said: “We will be operating five days a week throughout our 22 destinations and will utilize automated cargo systems to provide rate calculations, make bookings, generate manifests and track cargo on our new website, www.liatcargo.com .”
LIAT’s shareholders include the governments of Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Edwards added: “A central element of our plan is to not only extend our reach regionally but also extra-regionally via our three major hubs — Antigua, Barbados and Trinidad — through our relationships with international carriers. Important opportunities exist with these carriers to feed [wider] markets.”
Challenger said outdated practices, such as the need for overtime and other payments to Customs officers for operating outside a rigid work schedule, had acted as a barrier to the growth of regional cargo services and had significantly increased costs. “We hope that our regional policy makers will work to eliminate these outdated bureaucratic leftovers and allow the consumer to benefit from a streamlined and efficient Customs service,” he urged.