- French authorities on the island of Mayotte have suspended all ferry services linking the island with the rest of the Comoran archipelago due to safety negligence. Already, flight connections between Mayotte and Comoros are restricted, giving further blows to the planned development of tourism and trade in Comoros.
Mayotte, which is a Comoran island that insists on remaining French, is the major site of arrivals of foreign tourists to the archipelago, given its relatively good international connections. Many visitors to Comoros have used Mayotte as an entrance point for island hopping on the archipelago.
This option has now been barred by the French maritime authorities in Mayotte. According to local reports, the Comoran ferry connecting Mayotte and Grande Comore has been prohibited accessing the port of Dzaoudzi. Authorities for a long time had tolerated security flaws of the ferries, but continuous failures to comply with French standards finally saw the service suspended.
The reaction by Mayotte authorities comes after the 1 December accident on the ferry 'Ville de Sima', which was partly destroyed by a fire as it approached ht coast of Mayotte. This prompted maritime authorities to launch an inspection on the remaining ferries, which by far did not meet safety standards. Other passenger ferry services between Mayotte and Comoros had been closed for the same reasons earlier this year.
For the economic development of newly stabilised Comoros, the closure of one of the last connections with Mayotte is a major setback. The ferry services were important for trade between the islands and for the slowly developing tourism sector.
The suspension comes in addition to other setbacks in the infrastructure sector. Flights between Mayotte and Comoros have been stopped by Mahorais authorities for most of the last decade to prevent the substantial illegal immigration from Comoros. Equally, there are very few flights connecting the Comoran capital Moroni with the outside world.
The national airliner, Air Comore, was crippled by a disastrous attempt to privatise it in the end-1990s. Air France suspended its services to Moroni in 1997 and with the end of Air Comore, few connections remain. Most international connections now go via the French island of Réunion or via other regional airports.
In November this year, everything was going to change, with ambitious plans by Réunion's second airliner, Air Bourbon. Together with capital from Comoros and France, it was to launch the new Comoran carrier Air Comores International, based in Moroni. Air Comores was to connect Moroni directly to Paris, Marseille, Mayotte, Réunion, Mauritius and Dubai.
On 27 November, however, after the plans to launch Air Comores International already were delayed, Air Bourbon went bankrupt. The Reunionese company had invested too much, too rapidly in its ambition to become the Indian Ocean's principal airliner. Comoran authorities are looking for new investors to take the place of Air Bourbon, but have so far not been successful.
One of the main aims of the new Comoran airliner had been to promote the "immediate development of the economy and the tourism sector" of the Comoran archipelago. Comoros remains the Indian Ocean destination less developed for tourism, while neighbouring nations such as Seychelles, Mauritius and Réunion have become wealthy on the tourism industry.
Political turbulence, including around 20 coups and coup attempts since independence, has been the major reason for Comoros' failure to develop its tourism potential. As the new Comoro Union, with ample autonomy for the archipelago's three islands, is now established and political stability is planned for, Comoros aims at copying the tourism successes of its neighbours.
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