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Sorry can’t fix Tobago woes

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Stakeholders in Tobago say apologies don’t cut it, and the current inter-island transport problems on both the passenger ferries and the cargo vessels “is not working for us and we cannot allow it to continue.”

This as for yet another day there were major problems with the sailing of the ferries. The stakeholders are now telling the Board of the Port Authority to “come urgently to Tobago” and work with them to find a way forward.

Angry stakeholders, all dressed in black, met with the media yesterday in Tobago. President of the Inter-Island Trailers and Truckers Association Horace Amede said “we are mourning the death of what is happening in Tobago.”

Amede said apologies from the Chairman of the Port Authority Alison Lewis and the Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly Kelvin Charles did not cut it.

“We are tired with apology, you cannot feed your family with apology and that is what we getting from everybody.”

Instead Amede suggested “we need you to apologise, swallow your pride and let us go forward, compromise with whoever have a vessel and let us go forward and bring an end to the suffering.”

“Today is Friday, no vessel left Tobago this morning, yesterday we had the same problem. Members who went to Trinidad to buy vegetables, when they get to Tobago the vegetables cooked. This is what we face on a daily basis,” he said.

Businessman and former chairman of the Tobago Division of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce David Wong said “I have to pay my taxes. They are due next month. VAT (Value Added Tax) is due for me, my cycle is next month, I wonder if I could photocopy some of those apologies and give it to Minister Imbert down at the Board of Inland Revenue office, I wonder if he would take it, because we have been given those apologies and we taking it.”

He said there are sales people who come from Trinidad and who are paid on commissions. “I wonder if those companies in Trinidad who pay those sales people on commissions, who not making sales because goods not coming to Tobago, if they could photocopy some of those apologies and pay them with that.”

He said from 2014 to March of this year “I never left behind cargo in Port-of-Spain. During that time all my shipments got on to the Galicia or the Warrior Spirit and came to Tobago. No additional housing in Trinidad, no additional meals for truckers in Trinidad and my employees came home. That is what we had versus what we facing.”

Now he said his suppliers are telling him they not sending trucks until they can be assured they will get on the vessel. “I can’t guarantee that.”

He said the island is “not in crisis just yet,” but admitted that “stocks are running down very quickly and we are going to run out abruptly because we replacing little by little bit and trying to make ends meet.”

Chamber President Demi Moore Crickshank said the island is experiencing “serious shortages in construction material, hardwares literally empty, supermarket shelves have actually run very low and people warehouses are questionable. We have to bring some sort of closure to this crisis. Even the barge and the Atlantic Provider causing hardship for business.”

Cruickshank said the powers that be, the government and the port, need to fix the problem. To this end, he said, the Chamber had written to the Chairman of the Board of the Port requesting an urgent meeting “to see if we can solve this problem once and for all.”

Head of the inter-island transport committee Diane Hadad said Tobago is suffering as a result of bad decisions. “Clearly the powers that be and the decision makers are making decisions that are not in the best interest of the people. But definitely there is some other interest, it can’t be for the people because those decisions would have been elementary to make once you making the decisions for the right reason it is actually quite elementary.”

The problem is also affecting the hotel and tourism industry. President of the Hotel Association Chris James said Tobago is dependent on the local tourism industry. Next moth has two long weekends and with the July/August vacation looming they are seeing their chances for local tourism dwindling. “We depend on July/August to keep afloat, but our concern is that it will not be fixed fast enough.”

James said hotel occupancy in Tobago is now down to 34 per cent compared to the Caribbean average of 66 per cent and hotels have had to drop their rates to US$154 compared to the US$228 charged in other islands.


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