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Hoteliers beg suppliers
for payment plans
Tobago hoteliers are making a case for com-
pensation over the losses they have suffered as
a result of the sea bridge crisis.
Appearing before theJoint Select Committee of Par-
liament yesterday, Tobago Hotel and Tourism Associ-
ation vice president Carol Ann Birchwood-James said
the past five months have been harrowing for Tobago,
with "families being abandoned on the ports with no
food or communication while boats were delayed or
cancelled due to mechanical problems."
She said many visitors were forced to return to their
hotels after delays and cancellations and were accom-
modated at reduced cost.
She said the sea bridge problem evolved to bigger
issues, with even the air bridge affected, but conceded
that the "airlift on the domestic route is inadequate
and cannot be fixed without fixing the sea bridge."
The cancellation of the Ocean Flower 2 contract sent
"shock waves," and there were many cancellations as
a result, she said.
"The situation on the sea bridge is catastrophic for
the tourism industry, which saw tourists clamouring
for refunds. Businesses are unable to pay banks, utility
bills and staff," she said.
In light of this, she said the association was recom-
mending that "the Government consider compen-
sation for losses, that Government intervene with a
moratorium on hotel taxes and all taxes to stay fore-
closure of tourism plants by commercial banks" and
that the association have a presence on the Caribbean
Airlines and Port Authority boards. The association
also wants input in the procurement of any future
While the association is yet to quantify losses as a
result of the fiasco,president Chris James clarified that
the TT$25 million figure which he had given earlier
was "just for the four-month period when we had
The situation is so bad that when people book now
they first check whether they have a flight or ferry ticket
because "it was becoming too expensive for refunds
through the credit card system."
What is more difficult to estimate,James said, is the
loss of confidence of people who may no longer view
Tobago as their choice of destination.
"We don't have the ability to work out costs but you
talking many many millions of dollars," James said.
"People tried to keep staff three days a week, we
have asked utility companies for payment plans and
properties are in trouble," James said.
But the ray of light on the horizon is a meeting with
the Bankers Association on September 20.
THA rep absent
from JSC session
Inter-island Truckers and
Traders Association presi-
dent Horace Amede yester-
day called for the one-year
contract of the Cabo Star to be
scrapped, as the vessel is cre-
ating severe headache for his
members and Tobagonians.
Amede made the call before
the Joint Select Committee (JSC)
chaired by Stephen Creese at
the Bruce Financial Complex in
Scarborough, where stakeholders
who have been adversely affected
by the ongoing sea bridge fiasco
were able to vent their feelings.
Yesterday marked the third day
of the inquiry into the inter-is-
land ferry service focusing on the
procurement and maintenance
of the vessels.
At the start of the hearing,
Creese read a letter sent by sen-
ior legal counsel Alvin Pascal on
behalf of the Tobago House of
Assembly, which indicated its
representatives would not be
attending because the sea bridge
issue fell under Central Govern-
ment, which was already repre-
sented by the Ministry of Works
In his testimony, Amede
pointed out that the ferry service
was the lifeline for Tobagonians,
who have been losing millions of
dollars in business. Committee
member Franklin Khan tried to
comfort Amede, telling him he
felt their pains and Government
was trying its best to get the mat-
ter sorted out in the shortest pos-
During a discussion with
Works and Transport Minister
Rohan Sinanan in 2016, Ame-
de said they were assured the
owners of the Super Fast Galicia
would not pull the vessel out of
service because they needed the
money. He said the association
then began hearing rumours that
the chartered agreement for the
Galicia was not signed.
"Everything was working fine
with the Galicia. There were one
or two minor problems. We made
recommendations for the Galicia
to stay, lo and behold it was got-
ten rid of and we are faced with a
crisis that some of us are still un-
der stress up to today," he said. He
said he remained perplexed that
the Ocean Flower 2 was bought
on June 26 but the Government
made the announcement of its
contract on June 30.
"We believe that something
is wrong in the procurement
of those vessels." Amede out-
lined a list of problems on the
cargo vessel, ranging from an
infestation of rats, roaches and
mites, inadequate washroom and
bathroom facilities, no food and
water on sale, no sick room or air
conditioning. He said truckers
also have to sleep on the ground
during its nine hours of sailing.
"If we had a choice the Cabo
Star would not have been here
today because of the problems
we are faced with. We should not
be living like that in this modern
Committee vice chairman
Rushton Paray told Amede that
Sinanan, in his testimony on
Tuesday, said when the pro-
posal for the Galicia came to him
he was not in position to make
the taxpayers pay a $200 mil-
lion bill over the next five years.
Paray asked Amede what mes-
sage he would send to Sinanan
to bring a resolution to the crisis,
taking into consideration if the
Cabo Star's contract is broken
taxpayers would have to pay a
Amede said, "Replace the
boat because it is definitely not
working for us. My recommen-
dation to him would be get rid of
that vessel and get rid of it now."
Amede said seeing that Govern-
ment has expressed an interest
in buying a vessel, they should
ensure it is custom built to suit
their needs and its sailing time
is four hours.
Association vice president
Robert Tardieu also queried if
the Cabo Star was certified.
"What measures were taken
to allow people to travel on the
vessel? Who is providing the
insurance? Who issued the ex-
tension of the certificate for the
Ro-Ro vessel, because it was only
valid for three months? All these
questions need to be answered."
Tardieu said as far as he under-
stood "people who are travelling
on that vessel are doing so, unless
I am mistaken, at their own risk."
Assemblyman: Board, Sinanan should be fired
Minority member of the
Tobago House of Assembly
Farley Augustine wants the
Port Authority of T&T board
fired and "perhaps if it were
my decision to make I will
drop the board in the Bocas
and ask them to swim."
Augustine, who joined Minor-
ity Leader Watson Duke in a pro-
test swim from Scarborough to
Toco last week to highlight the sea
bridge problems, made the com-
ment yesterday before the Joint
Select Committee looking into
procurement and maintenance of
the Cabo Star and Ocean Flower 2
on the inter-island service.
Augustine also suggested that
works and transport Minister Ro-
han Sinanan be fired over the sea
According to Farley, it would
be inconceivable for New York
City governors to sit and watch
the subway down for a week.
Similarly, he said "the Central
Government must see the in-
ter-island service as a critical
service akin to the subway in New
York or London or the red band
going to Arima."
Both he and committee mem-
ber Wade Mark were critical of
THA Chief Secretary Kelvin
Charles' failure to attend the ses-
sion. Farley said under the THA
Act, the THA "has responsibility
for infrastructure, including sea
and air transportation."
Tobago, he said, "cannot lay
claims to greater autonomy
without first laying claim to
greater responsibility. We must
take responsibility for what hap-
pened, the Executive Council has
failed us on this matter, they have
ducked the issue all along."
Augustine said the ferry crisis
had damaged the Tobago econo-
my but it also affected Trinidad-
"We are purchasing goods and
services from Trinidad business-
es, truckers spend TT$100,000
every single day, that is a signif-
icant loss in economic terms."
He said many other people
were affected,including students,
people wanting to join the police
service and who could not make
it to write their exams, as well as
those travelling to Trinidad to at-
tend to medical issues, because
he said it was "impossible for the
hospital in Tobago to provide 100
per cent of the medical treatment
Augustine suggested the com-
mittee put "punitive measures"in
place against those who "damage
the public purse," suggesting the
crisis on the sea bridge was "cre-
ated, it did not happen by acci-
dent, it was not an emergency."
Scrap Cabo Star deal now, truckers' boss
Dianne Hadad, with Stakeholder & Assemblyman Farley Augustine, Tobago House of Assembly-
Member for Parlatuvier/L'Anse Fourmi/Speyside during the Joint Select Committee of Parliament in
Tobago, yesterday. PHOTO: OFFICE OF THE PARLIAMENT
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