Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 3rd 2017 Contents BG4 | COVER STORY
BUSINESS GUARDIAN guardian.co.tt AUGUST 3 • 2017
Tobago economy suffers
The inter-island transportation situation be-
tween Trinidad and Tobago has been nothing
short of a crisis over the last four months. The
fact that it is easier to travel to Miami from
Trinidad than it is to get to the "sister isle"
speaks to the magnitude of the impact of poor
air and sealift between the islands.
On the commercial end, when the Super Fast Galicia (the
only designated inter-island cargo boat) exited service of the
maritime route, an implosion in trade between the islands
immediately set in. The ease with which cargo once moved
between the islands was severely impeded causing untold stress
to the Tobago business community.
The replacements for the Galicia (MV Transporter and the
Atlantic Provider) were seen as unsatisfactory by scores of To-
bagonian businessmen as both could neither accommodate the
volume of cargo as the Galicia nor move with the same speed.
To compound matters, regular breakdowns in the fast-ferry
service---the T&T Spirit and the T&T Express--- affected the
movement of commuters and tourists between the islands.
The domestic economy in Tobago has suffered heavy losses
on both the commercial and local tourism end as a result.
The most recent blow dealt to an already battered island
was the refusal of Caribbean Airlines (CAL) pilots in mid-July
to fly the ATR aircrafts that traverse the route. Several flights
had to be cancelled and many were delayed when the pilots
took strike action over safety concerns and technical problems
they stated the aircraft was experiencing.
According to chairman of the Tobago Chamber, Demi John
Cruickshank, the current scenario could have been avoided
had the early appeals of the chamber been appeased.
"Since August of last year we raised our concerns about the
Super Fast Galicia exiting service of the seabridge and warned
that if an appropriate replacement was not found in the proper
time, the consequences could be dire," Cruickshank told the
He added that as a result of the inter-island transporta-
tion fiasco, the business community in Tobago had suffered
"The last four months have been a nightmare for Tobago
businesses. Businesses in Tobago have lost between 30 and
35 per cent of their sales because of this debacle. We've even
had companies threatened with foreclosure by banks because
of the seabridge situation. When businesses cannot receive
goods to sell they cannot generate revenues and cover their
expenses," he said.
Cruickshank noted that the replacements for the Galicia
were woefully inadequate to meet the commercial needs of
"The Galicia was able to hold up to 113 trucks daily which
allowed for a smooth flow of goods from Trinidad to Tobago.
When the Atlantic Provider came on the route, it was only
able to transport 40 trucks, so immediately you had an over
60 per cent decline in the volume of cargo that could come
over to Tobago."
Questioned about the impact of regular breakdowns in the
two fast ferries, and the subsequent removal from the route of
the T&T Spirit for repairs on the Tobago economy, Cruickshank
stated that the tourism sector has been the biggest casualty.
"Tourism has really felt the brunt of the pain associated with
the troubles of inter-island transportation. Tourism is the main
income earner in Tobago, and domestic tourism makes up a
significant part of that. We've had reports of hotels having to
cut their staff rotations down to four hours a day just to not
lay off workers. With only one fast ferry servicing the route,
the passenger volumes coming across to Tobago has been es-
sentially cut in half," Cruickshank said.
Asked about the impact of the recent protest by the pilots,
Cruickshank pointed out that CAL was a "perennial problem"
"The protest of the pilots caused a further dislocation of
transportation between the islands. International arrivals have
been declining annually since 2007 when we had about 88,000
visitors to the island to just around 18,000 international visitors
today. So domestic flights bringing Trinidadians across has
been the key in offsetting the declining international arrivals.
Any fears of their ability to return would mean that Trinidad-
ians would be reluctant to come across to Tobago in the first
place," Cruickshank pointed out.
The chamber chairman noted that air travel to
the island provided a different range of income
earning potential for the Tobago economy.
"When people travel by plane, they usu-
ally rent cars or take a taxi to move around
so all these add-on services invariably were
Cruickshank added that the interplay between the seabridge
and the airbridge mattered to the Tobago economy.
"When you only have one fast ferry available---as we do now
to service the route---it means that those who would have or-
dinarily taken the boat now have to take the plane if they wish
to get across to Tobago. One CAL flight to Tobago can only hold
68 passengers whereas as the fast ferry would have been able to
accommodate up to 800 passengers. So you effectively have to
add over 10 flights to move one ferry load of passengers by air."
With the new Cabo Star cargo boat coming on stream in the
last two weeks, Cruickshank stated he was optimistic that a
part of the transportation woes between the islands had been
"We currently have backed up cargo coming across which we
expect will take about three weeks just to clear the backlog of
goods to Tobago. It's mostly hardware supplies, grocery items
and pharmaceuticals. We're happy to have cargo moving again
on the seabridge."
DEMI JOHN CRUICKSHANK
President of the Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce
Hotels, retailers feel the pinch
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