The island of Barbados is an annual attraction for European and other tourists taking cruises to the islands of the West Indies. Its location east of all the other islands makes it a natural gateway to Europeans. It has a higher standard of living than most of the other islands, with tourism being a major contributor.
Barbados is also a major port of call for container shipping into and out of the Caribbean Sea, which includes the islands of the Caribbean and the northern countries of South America. Both cargo and cruise ships stop and are served at the award winning Barbados Port run by the island’s government corporation, Barbados Port, Inc.
In addition to providing great berthing spots and friendly, efficient service Barbados Port is an access point to the many attractions of the island that demonstrate sustainable ecosystems (not to mention the finest rum drinks in the world.) The island’s attractions include a preserved coral reef used for research, great ocean dive sites, its world renowned horticulture, and its top attraction – a crystallised limestone cave, first discovered in 1795.
The port, itself, features good security and efficient cargo operations, gives a great first impression for tourists, and ensures employee health and safety. The Port Authority and its partners work hard to educate and monitor staff to provide these services and more.
Barbados Port History & Size
Barbados has been running cargo for over 50 years and cruise operations for more than 30 years. The Port Authority was created about 10 years before that from a merger and nationalised in 1992, then corporatised in 2003 to become Barbados Port, Inc. (BPI).
The port’s first expansion in 1978 gave it a container berth, park, and a bulk handling facility. In 2001 the Port used dredging materials to connect with small Pelican Island and built facilities for cruise ships. The global economic downturn in 2008 resulted in a decrease of business, so the Port Authority decided to use the downtime to upgrade and prepare for the future. In 2011 the Port installed an electronic trade logistics system for cargo, and in 2013 built another pier and ancillary facilities for the cruise ships. An equipment upgrade followed, as did special training to upgrade employee skills.
Now the port is ready for the world’s economy to pick up. By 2012 there were 1,534 cargo ship calls moving over one million tons of goods. In 2014 the port hosted 395 cruise ships with 557,898 total passengers. An increase of 1,164 passengers from the year before chose to stay on the island for a week or more – great for the hotel and travel tour businesses. January of 2015 showed the highest number of that month’s visits in 15 years.
Most of Barbados’ visitors come from Europe. As the European economy continues to recover, the Port’s marketing arm will increase its marketing efforts to attract visitors during the slower summer and fall months. This includes visitors from the U.S. and Canada, which are also picking up. In the process, the Port is forming stronger alliances with online travel agencies and tour operators.
In order to keep all of these visitors safe, the Port has been addressing the spectre of terrorism, which hasn’t affected the Caribbean, but is something that visitors worry about.
Port Security – Security is the top concern of the BPI, considering that it receives more than half a million tourists per year and handles high numbers of cargo. In addition to well-trained security officers staffing all areas of the port around the clock, it also utilises high intensity lighting, specialised cargo scanners, security cameras, X-ray equipment, and patrol boats and vehicles to boost security. The Port’s officers are supported by the Barbados Royal Police Force and the island’s Coast Guard.
Efficient Cargo Operations – To safely export the island’s rum, palletised sugar, and a few manufactured goods, while importing all the other goods Bajans need to thrive, the port’s 200 cargo employees run its transhipment business especially efficiently. The port is equipped to handle over 100,000 containers per year, and authorities keep good relations with the workers’ labour union so it runs without interruption.
Cargo berths are equipped with a 40-ton capacity gantry crane and 104-ton capacity mobile crane. The terminal is well equipped as well, with 50 forklifts, nine straddle carriers, and two reach stackers. Forklifts are equipped to stuff and unstuff containers and work in confined areas on board ship. Cargo tracking is electronic, using the KleinPort computer system, which gives customers access to the location of their containers from their own office.
Barbados Mills, also located at the terminal, has its own dock with a 200 ton per hour conveyor belt and equipment for unloading and storing wheat, corn, and soy meal. It also has a portable suction system to use in situations where that works better for unloading, and a tractor bucket system to use for cleanup.
Quality Tourism Service – Bajans are well aware of the benefits tourists bring to their island. They make a special effort to be warm and friendly to tourists, inviting them to enjoy the island’s sights, the great West Indian food, and the home-crafted artefacts.
The port’s air-conditioned terminal has a duty free shopping mall run by the Bridgetown Cruise Terminal, Inc. with 58 international shops and a fleet of quaint pushcarts selling local goods. Local performers include a steel band, dancers, singers, and other entertainers. The terminal is where passengers can hook up with the island’s many tours and excursions. It even offers a popular rum-sampling kiosk.
Employee Health – For port employees to work efficiently and be authentically friendly, they must be healthy and in good spirits. Knowing that Port authorities and coworkers are looking out for their safety helps. Workers are organised into task forces charged with looking after specific areas. With concurrent training in health and safety standards, plus mandated annual visits to the onsite health clinic, the employee accident rate and sick days off has declined rapidly.
Barbados Port so strongly affects the rest of the island (and vice versa) that its efficiency extends outward to include others who offer services related to cargo and cruise calls. The result has triggered the United Nations to add Barbados to its list of maritime nations with high human development. It also generated several awards for the Port, not only from the Caribbean Shipping Association, but from cruise lines like Dream World and World Cruise Destinations.
Barbados is not just a natural gateway to the Caribbean. It’s a high quality gateway.
The Barbados Port
Telephone: (246) 434-6100