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.

Part of Series

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.
  • Fritz Pinnock is the executive director at the Caribbean Maritime Institute. His experience in the shipping and transportation industry spans over two decades. Fritz holds a Ph.D. in sustainable development from the University of the West Indies. He also holds a master of science degree from University of Plymouth, United Kingdom.

  • Ibrahim Ajagunna holds a higher national diploma in hospitality management from the Federal Polytechnic Idah, Nigeria, a master of science degree from Sheffield Hallam University, United Kingdom, a post graduate diploma in education from the University of Technology and a Ph.D. in sustainable development from the University of the West Indies.