“This is a no-brainer,” said Bruce Nierenberg, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of United Caribbean Lines.
The Lakeland resident has worked in the cruise ship business for nearly 40 years. His ultimate goal is to create a network of ferry service throughout the Caribbean, including the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Bahamas and eventually Cuba.
“Ferries have more economic impact than a cruise ship because the people stay for many days,” Nierenberg said during a business panel Wednesday at the port.
One ferry would generate $300 million a year in economic impact and create at least 100 shore side jobs, he said.
Service to Mexico would take about 27 hours. European-sized ferries can accommodate 1,000 to 2,000 passengers and offer staterooms or seat-only options. The largest boats can accommodate up to 600 cars and cargo trailers.
Nierenberg said fares would start around $195 round trip, or about half the cost of air service. Frequency would depend on demand, he said, with the break-even point for the boats at around 60 percent capacity.