For the time being, the Netherlands has no intention of spending millions again to help out Winair. This is what outgoing minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen says in a response to parliamentary questions. However, she says she keeps her finger on the pulse.
The small Winair is currently the only provider of regular flights to Saba and St Eustatius. Due to the corona crisis, the airline is deep in the red. The fear is that Winair will eventually run out of money. Should the company fall over, the accessibility of that part of the Caribbean Netherlands will come under pressure.
The Dutch government has a 7.95 percent stake in Winai. r For that reason, they decided last year to provide a mortgage loan of three million dollars to the airline. The airport building (book value: six million, foreclosure value 4.5 million) serves as collateral. In the end, that turned out to be not enough, and this summer Winair again knocked on the minister’s door for extra support.
According to Van Nieuwenhuizen, Winair requested several million dollars. “At the moment, support from the Netherlands is not (yet) an issue. Because of the Dutch interest in the accessibility of Saba and St Eustatius, we keep a finger on the pulse,” says Van Nieuwenhuizen in a letter to the House of Representatives.
However, she does indicate that, if Winair were to go bankrupt, the Netherlands would have to ensure the accessibility of the islands. That is why the minister is evaluating a state participation in Winair. “As a result, it will be examined whether this instrument is still the most suitable to safeguard the public interest of the accessibility of the Caribbean Netherlands. As soon as more is known about this, I will inform your Chamber. This is expected to be later this year.”
In addition to flying, boating is also a way to get to the islands. Recently, a tender process for a ferry service started. “It is expected that the selection can take place in mid-August and that the tender process can then be completed. Due to the corona crisis, the project has mainly been delayed because it was unclear when the travel movements would pick up to such an extent that it would be opportune to start the ferry service.”
According to the Minister, whether the ferry service can start depends, in particular, on finding an interested and suitable market party to operate the ferry service. If the tender process is successful and a suitable candidate arises, it is expected that the ferry service can start in November/December this year.