The port structure of the Caribbean has been heavily influenced by global change over the last 200 years. The historical context — colonialism, piracy and slavery — meant that ports were originally designed to serve colonial interests. The advent of containerization and  globalization have dramatically changed cargo shipping, while at the same time, cruise tourism has increased significantly — the Caribbean accounts for 50 percent of the global market — which means that cargo and cruise ships now compete for limited berth space.

The Caribbean approach to the development and reform of the maritime industry has been fragmented, as the region is made up of microstates. As the global shipping industry evolved, port infrastructure in the region has not kept pace, and needs to undergo a major overhaul in order to become sustainable. This paper provides an overview of the maritime transport industry in the Caribbean, the history of both cargo and cruise shipping, and makes nine policy recommendations that could help the region achieve sustainability and efficiency.

CIGI's Caribbean Papers present and discuss policy issues pertaining to trade, investment, human capital, the fiscal outlook and public sector management practices, among other issues, relevant to the Caribbean region's economic future.