Westminster Group PLC Monday said its high-performance ferry will arrive in Sierra Leone at the end of April, and said it believes confidence and demand for a premium ferry service in West Africa is growing as the outbreak of Ebola dwindles and passenger numbers at the nearby airport increase.
The company provides security and managed services to a number of blue-chip companies, governments, and non-governmental organisations around the world. In March, it said it had decided to buy a vessel for the West African ferry services contract it signed in November which was more expensive and larger than initially planned.
Westminster decided to purchase a larger vessel due to increased passenger numbers at the nearby airport, from which the ferry will run, and due to fewer cases of Ebola, which has increased travel confidence in the region.
On Monday, Westminster said the 38.9 metre, 200 seater, high-performance passenger ferry named Sierra Queen will arrive in the country from Norway at the end of April.
Westminster said the ferry is being transferred to Sierra Leone from Norway on a heavy lift delivery vessel which is one of the few vessels that is currently able to lift and transport a ferry of its size.
“Sierra Queen is a superb and very impressive ‘flag ship’ vessel for our new ferry operations in Sierra Leone, and we are delighted she will be arriving in country this month to provide a much needed professional and fast ferry transit service between Freetown International Airport and the capital, Freetown,” said Peter Fowler, chief executive of Westminster.
“Westminster’s in-country staff have made significant progress developing the terminals and infrastructure required for the launch and commencement of operations,” it said in a statement.
Westminster said over 9,000 passengers passed through Freetown Airport in March which was its highest level in seven months, and the company is confident that there is a growing demand for a premium ferry service in the country.
“The arrival of our vessel later this month and commencement of operations is excellent timing given the significant improvements we are seeing with the Ebola situation and improving airport passenger numbers,” said Fowler.
Westminster said there was only 25 reported cases of Ebola in Sierra Leone during the last week of March, demonstrating “marked improvement” compared to 300 cases a week at the height of the outbreak.
“The continuing improvement in passenger numbers, following the easing of the Ebola situation, has had a positive impact on the financial performance of our airport operations in the first quarter of this year, marking a turnaround from the inevitable adverse impact the crisis had on the operation in the second half of 2014,” added Fowler.