Mystery surrounds Panama-Colombia ferry service
The future of a new passenger/car ferry service linking the port of Colon, on the Caribbean Sea side of the Panama Canal with the port of Cartagena in Colombia is in doubt. The service, operated by Panamanian company Ferry Xpress, started in November 2014, using the chartered Italian Ro-Pax SNAV Adriatico(ex Konigin Beatrix, Stena Baltica).
The ferry owner’s plan was the offer a quick, viable alternative for those tourists wishing to travel on the world’s longest motor road, the 48,000km Pan-American Highway which runs from Alaska in the north to Antarctica in the south. The highway is continuous except for the infamous Darien Gap in Panama, a stretch of impenetrable tropical forest stretching 100-160km from the Caribbean Sea side of Panama to the Pacific Ocean side. Travellers wishing to get to Latin America with cars/motor cycles had to ship them from Panama to Colombia by sea in freight containers, an expensive option.So the arrival towards the end of last year of Ferry Xpress was very much welcomed, especially as she offered ‘attractive rate’s for the transportation of cars and motor cycles and made the trip between Colon and Cartagena in just 18 hours.
The 31,910grt SNAV Adriatico, with a capacity for 1,200 passengers and 524 cars, was to make two return sailing weekly and then offer a mini cruise to the Bocas del Toro tourist region on the Caribbean coast of Panama, close to the Costa Rican border. However, since enter service, the vessel’s timetable has been somewhat erratic and recent sailings have been ‘passenger’ only, with no reason being given for cars/motor cycles not being allowed.
Ferry Xpress’ current timetable shows all sailings after 12 April being cancelled and the end of April being the ‘end of the vessels season.’ Panamanian sources suggest that the ferry will not operate in the Hurricane Season in the Caribbean. However, Ferry Express has not responded to questions from Fleet Mon about the continuation of the service.
Once again it looks like another ferry failure in this part of the world, like the ill-fated plans by Venezuelan ferry company FerryMar to run a fast ferry service between La Guaira, the port for the capital Caracas, and Curacao in the Netherlands Antilles, using the former Stena HSS 1500 Stena Discovery. The latter, renamed HSS Discovery is currently laid-up in Willemstad, Curacao, awaiting a buyer.