Commerce Chamber aims for direct Colombia airlift | THE DAILY HERALD

St. Eustatius and Saba Chamber of Commerce Board member Hemmie van Xanten (left) and President Carlyle Tearr during their visit to Colombia in November 2018.

SABA/ST. EUSTATIUS–The Chamber of Commerce of St. Eustatius and Saba wants to actively assist in setting up a direct airline service between Colombia and St. Eustatius, with onward service to Saba, and to get a shipping company interested in transporting goods from the South American country and the Windward Islands.

Commerce Chamber board member Hemmie van Xanten and President Carlyle Tearr visited Colombia from November 25 to 30, 2018, as part of the trade mission of the Dutch Government.

The trade mission, led by Hans de Boer of the Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers VNO-NCW, included Prime Minister Mark Rutte, several ministers from the Netherlands, Aruba and Curaçao and a large number of Dutch businesses.

With the assistance the Chambers of Commerce of Medellin, Bogotá and Aburra, which expressed interest in working together with the Chamber of Commerce of Statia and Saba, Van Xanten and Tearr looked into a number of options to export products from Colombia to the two islands.

Van Xanten and Tearr established contact with SARPA, an air charter and air ambulance operator from Colombia. The Caribbean Netherlands Health Insurance Office ZVK uses this airline to transport patients between Bonaire and Colombia.

The benefits of having SARPA fly to Statia are multiple, according to the Saba/Statia Commerce Chamber. Saba and Statia patients no longer need to travel via St. Maarten and Bonaire to Colombia for medical treatment. A direct flight between Colombia and Statia would limit travel time to three hours. The Chamber of Commerce is hoping that ZVK would be willing to join this venture, since it would also cut the cost of medical referrals.

Not only patients would benefit from a direct flight between Statia and Colombia, but the flight could transport fresh produce from Colombia to Statia and Saba. The SARPA flights may also contribute to bringing in tourists from Colombia. SARPA has 17- and 23-seater aircraft that could land at Statia’s F.D. Roosevelt Airport.

While in Colombia, Van Xanten and Tearr discussed the possibilities of increasing tourism with Colombia’s largest tour and hotel operator Aviatur. The Chamber delegation met with several companies that specialize in exporting fruits, vegetables and meats.

The Chamber of Commerce is also exploring possibilities to have a shipping company from Curaçao sail from Colombia to Saba and Statia with fresh produce, dry goods, construction materials and household goods.

The cargo vessel could ship four containers. Going back to Colombia, the ship could take recyclable materials including scrap metal, car wrecks, tires, paper and plastic from Saba and Statia, the Chamber said.

Source: The Daily Herald