For three years, the Bahamian island of Bimini 50 miles off the Florida coast has been a two-hour ferry ride away from Miami.
As of Monday, the only way to get from Miami to Bimini by sea is by private yacht. Instead, ferry service to Bimini will be available from Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades later this week.
In 2016, Malaysian casino company Genting partnered with German company FRS Caribbean to offer the ferry service from PortMiami. On Monday that service stopped, leaving Miami without an affordable marine link to the island. Genting is now partnering with Spanish company Balearia Caribbean to begin service to Bimini from Port Everglades on Wednesday. Balearia has been providing ferry service to Freeport, Bahamas, from Port Everglades since 2011.
The Genting change-up comes four months after a federal judge in Miami ordered the former CEO of Balearia Group, Hernan Calvo, to pay the company $2.8 million for taking the Genting ferry deal to two competitors, including FRS Caribbean, in 2015 while he still worked for Balearia. Calvo went on to work for FRS Caribbean, which signed the ferry deal with Genting in June 2016, according to court documents.
CEO of FRS Caribbean Kai Knocke said the change was based on “commercial considerations.”
“In our opinion the relatively small market between Florida and The Bahamas allows at the moment only room for one shipping company for a year-round service,” Knocke said.
Genting did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the change. A spokesperson for PortMiami said the port found out about the cancellation Monday and declined to comment further.
In a statement, FRS Caribbean said passenger tickets already purchased with the company will be valid with Balearia Caribbean through Port Everglades. Passengers currently in Bimini will return to Port Everglades and the company will provide free shuttle service back to Miami.
Genting owns a 305-room hotel and casino in Bimini and is currently building an adjacent private beach resort for Richard Branson’s Miami-based cruise company Virgin Voyages.
Genting is pursuing a transit contract with Miami-Dade to build a monorail system linking downtown and Miami Beach that would include its 14-acre waterfront property in downtown Miami, formerly home to the Miami Herald. Genting previously attempted to build a casino on the site, but gave up when it failed to change Florida law to allow for gambling there.