Roatan’s Beauty, Truth & Wisdom

Moving Goods to Roatan

Workers unload El Oso in French Harbour, at old DV Woods lumber facility.

Shipping Goods from the Mainland to Roatan has become a Competitive Business

Every piece of lumber, every piece of food item, and every vehicle has to be shipped to Roatan from either mainland Honduras, or the US. The majority of goods coming from the mainland begin their journey in La Ceiba, the most centrally located port to supply the entire Bay Islands department and Mosquito Coast.

The competition to ship these goods has been growing and Roatan based Island Shipping no longer has a monopoly like it used to, even a year ago. Isla Bahía has emerged as the biggest of the companies competing with Island Shipping. Their “Isla Bahía” is the only vessel capable of bringing in containers like Island Shipping has been doing for two decades. Isla Bahía started its operations in January of 2022 and the pressure is heating up.

While Island Shipping is still the largest player in the maritime shipping business, but it no longer has a monopoly. Island Shipping’s Courage and El Cortés run between the port of La Ceiba and their company facilities in Brick Bay and port of La Ceiba.

Island Shipping is trying to stay ahead of the competition. Island Shipping is owned by ex Roatan Mayor and ex congressman Jerry Hynds. They managed to construct its own, large docking facility right after the entrance to La Ceiba port. According to Francisco Sosa, operations manager at La Ceiba port, Island Shipping is not allowed to use the facility for docking, but only as a container storage area. The new dock facility, once approved, and the company’s contract with Cervecería Hondureña gives Island Shipping a strategic advantage over competitors that have appeared on the horizon.

There are now several ways of moving vehicles and large cargo.

As Roatan develops by leaps and bounds the island maritime shipping competition is growing fierce. There is still a new boat in the cargo game. Best Way Shipping belonging to the islanders. The Woods family saw a way to provide an alternative to shipping goods between La Ceiba and French Harbour, Roatan. “We were in the fishing business for many years and decided to give the shipping business a go,” said Howie Woods Jr. who is the captain of the boat Oso.

Oso has started operating three times a week between the dock at old DV Woods hardware store. The DV Woods lumber storage area is now used by Canales lumber that ships their cargo via Oso. The boat leaves Roatan for La Ceiba on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays returning to the island a day later.

Several other smaller cargo boats like Conchita, El Cacique and Mi Rosario are some other smaller vessels that are offering budget alternatives on shipping goods between the mainland and Roatan and Coxen Hole or French Harbour usually.

There is also Captain Bambino and Bambino II. They operate out of their headquarters in French Harbour next to Gio’s restaurant for the last 15 years. The two boats pay a hefty fee to the Port of La Ceiba for the service: between Lps. 8,000 and 12,000 per week for each boat.

For smaller cargo, animals, and more urgent packages there is another alternative. The passengers ferry Galaxy that arrives on Roatan twice-a-day. Small car parts and envelopes are usually shipped via air on CM air cargo. They opened a separate office at the Roatan airport. Cargo Espresso and Expreco, Honduras’ national shipping companies, use a variety of sea shippers to deliver their shipments to the island.

There are now several ways of moving vehicles and large cargo between La Ceiba and Roatan. Jermy Antony Hamilton, a Roatan car importer says that he can ship a SUV for 4,000 Lps. to Roatan via Oso or with New Star. He has to pay around Lps. 6,700 shipping the vehicle via Island Shipping.

Island Shipping is the only company that does insure their cargo and accidents do happen. Insurance for cargo passing across La Ceiba is a good idea as the port is a difficult place to run a boat out. The port has no dredger and no tug boat to help vessels that find themselves in trouble.

The shallow entrance to the La Ceiba port combined with heavy swells has been a cause of damage and sinking for several vessels. Captain Duggy sunk in 2017; in 2016 Captain Sánchez sunk and in 2020 it was Monica’s and Captain Bambino’s turn. Several of these boats do manage to get refloated and are in use today.

Island Shipping no longer has a monopoly like it used to.

La Ceiba is a hub for moving cargo all over Bay Islands. Guanaja has several vessels bringing in goods from La Ceiba. Hey Caps, Mr. Tom, Lady Gloria and Sea Grape, all service the route on different days of the week.

La Ceiba has boats moving cargo to La Mosquitia coast with supplies and food products. Galvanic, Ms Margarita II, and Mr. Jim sail between La Ceiba and Puerto Lempira. Island Shipping’s Cortés I and Cortés II run from La Ceiba to Cauquira. Smaller boats that leave the port for the Hog Islands are based further up the river from the La Ceiba port in the Cangrejal River. Swan Islands, a forgotten archipelago that is also part of Roatan Municipality is serviced by Honduran navy and its boat “Gracias a Dios.” “They leave without a schedule, every few months,” said Sosa.

The current port of La Ceiba with designation is HNLCE, it has moved operations from a wooden pier that served banana companies for almost a century. The town of La Ceiba was formally established as a city in 1877 and named after a huge kapok tree that stood near the old pier. The city was developed as a banana port that opened for business in 1898. The original port was originally just a dock jetting into the sea on the extension of the banana company’s railway tracks; the old dock finally fell into the sea city at the end of 2007. The current port is located off Punta Cangrejal, at the mouth of the Cangrejal River.

In the early 2020s, ambitions for the port were high. Management of the port would have liked the port to have regular shipping connections with Cayman Islands and Belize. In 2016 La Ceiba Municipality took over operations of the port from Honduras’ Empresa Nacional Portuaria. According to Sosa there are two interested bidders for the port concession: one US based and one Mexican.