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Mixed outlook for new interior La Gomera boat link and harsh warning for Los Cristianos 

PAGE 14 MIXED OUTLOOK FOR NEW INTERIOR

The port at Los Cristianos needs urgent works to stop it from becoming a bottleneck and to be able to deal with more passengers than it can at the moment.

This is the claim of island leaders on La Gomera who are keeping their fingers crossed that two new services to Tenerife will continue, al-though some consider the outlook is not very favourable.

One expert believes one or other of the two companies, Fred Olsen and Naviera Armas, will eventually “throw in the towel” and abandon the route which takes people around the coast of Las Gomera direct to Valle Gran Rey for the first time in five years when the original service stopped.

The internal maritime line of La Gomera was launched a few months ago and has moved thousands of people to and from the island. Until then, it only went to San Sebastian but there are now two ferries which go around La Gomera, with a 75 per cent discount for Canary residents.

However, a similar service did not prove a success before and there are doubts over the future.

The official data indicate that Fred Olsen moved a total of 19,000 passengers between September and December of last year, in the three daily trips from San Sebastian.

On the part of Naviera Armas, December saw 18,000 passengers in what the company describes as “a resounding success”. The shipping company says the service has worked “as an authentic maritime bus”, in its two daily trips to San Sebastian and Los Cristianos. It does not stop at Playa de Santiago but it does have capacity to transport vehicles.

President of the Cabildo de La Gomera, Casimiro Curbelo, said the start-up of the line is the result of a “long struggle” on the part of the insular institution and an “absolutely vital” service for citizens.

Sr. Curbelo said improve-ments in the ports of Valle Gran Rey and Playa de Santiago were vital and were likely to be done in 2020 which would make the locations more attractive for cruise liners.

He described the port situation at Los Cristianos as “unacceptable” , saying: “Los Cristianos needs an urgent improvement of accesses, which become a bottleneck for users, but also requires an expansion of port facilities that do not have the capacity or enough personnel to manage the large volume of passengers with which the port operates. At certain times of the year, such as summer, there are frequent collapses that not only damage the image offered to tourist users, but also cause upsets and discomfort in Canarian travellers.”

The Cabildo says the journalist specialising in transport matters, Juan Carlos Díaz Lorenzo, is not very optimistic about the mainte-nance of the new La Gomera insular line under the current conditions. He believes that one of the shipping companies or maybe both will end up throwing in the towel for the high costs involved in main-taining competition.

“I get the impression that at the moment they are losing both and for now they are escaping thanks to the occupation of the weekends,” he says.

“My impression is that one of the two shipping companies will have to go. My suspicion? Well, Armas could do it because the boat used by Fred Olsen is smaller and therefore more operational for this journey. But I hope I’m wrong and the two can work.”

President of the Insular Business Association of La Gomera, Fernando Barrera, said they still do not have official data on the impact that the new line has had on the businesses of Playa de Santiago and Valle Gran Rey. However, from the beginning. it had been possible to see an increase in customers of restaurants and hotels. And especially, on weekends, when tourists from other countries also join Canary residents. The rest of the days, the line is used mostly by foreign visitors.

Sr. Barrera is also cautious about the possibility of keeping the two shipping companies at the same time, “I wish it were that way because in general what can be seen is that businessmen and users are very happy with the new line,” he says.