THE islands at the end of the string of Caribbean nations are important to historic and current trade routes. Port of Spain on the island of Trinidad is considered a trade centre of the West Indies; the International Association of Ports and Harbors highlights its position to major sea lanes between the Americas, the Caribbean islands and the trading links between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans via the Panama Canal.


Australia formally established diplomatic relations with Trinidad and Tobago in 1974. Both countries are members of the Commonwealth, United Nations and World Trade Organization, but bilateral trade is fairly limited – fewer than five Australians visited Trinidad and Tobago in 2022-23 and the Caribbean nation has no formal diplomatic representation in Australia.

Trinidad and Tobago ranked 112 among Australia’s export destinations in 2022. We exported $17.8 million worth of meat (excluding beef) to the islands that year. Our main imports from Trinidad and Tobago were fertilisers, essential oils and perfumes and alcoholic beverages. Traditionally important agricultural exports were sugar, cocoa and coffee, but one of the major export commodities nowadays is liquefied natural gas. Oil production has declined from its peak in the late 1970s, but both oil and natural gas contribute substantially to the country’s economy.


Port of Spain on the island of Trinidad is both the capital city and main commercial port in Trinidad and Tobago. Ports in the south such as Point Fortin, Pointe-à-Pierre and Brighton handle petroleum exports. There are also port facilities at Point Lisas.

State-owned shipping lines and airline services connect Trinidad with Tobago. The Trinidad and Tobago Inter-island Transportation Company operates four passenger ferries, namely T&T Spirit, APT James, Cabo Star and Galleons Passage.

Shipbuilder Austal, which is headquartered in Australia, has built vessels for the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard, including coastal and offshore patrol vessels. In October 2023 Austal opened a maintenance facility on the island of Trinidad. Austal operates the facility under an in-service support agreement signed by the government of Trinidad and Tobago in April 2022. Austal also built the ferry APT James, which was delivered in 2021.


The Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard is involved with search and rescue around the islands and the region. It is also involved with interdiction of the maritime drug trade.

The Global Organized Crime Index says Trinidad and Tobago is a destination country for the regional arms trafficking market, but in some cases, drugs accompany the illicit arms shipments, with the arms being used as a form of payment. Firearms are often concealed in legitimate cargo and facilitated by corrupt port officials.

Cocaine trafficking is especially widespread in Trinidad and Tobago, according to the Global Organized Crime Index. It notes the country lies along one of the world’s most significant cocaine corridors, which influences Trinidad and Tobago’s role as a transit country for South American cocaine bound for the US and Europe. Well-established cargo routes between Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Venezuela facilitate the cocaine trade, with drugs concealed in legitimate cargo vessels. Drugs are transferred from the cargo vessels to smaller local vessels at sea or delivered to specific drop-off locations in the region.

Trinidad and Tobago is also a considerable point of transit for cocaine shipped to other eastern Caribbean islands, according to the index. The most vulnerable areas for drug trafficking are the eastern parts of Trinidad.

This article appeared in the March 2024 edition of DCN Magazine