Are truckers who travel with their vehicles on the cargo ferry Cabo Star covered by insurance in the event of a mishap, asked Robert Tardieu of the Inter Island Truckers Association, appearing as a witness to the Joint Select Committee (JSC) probing the servicing of the sea-bridge at its sitting in Tobago yesterday.
Tardieu said that if the Cabo Star is registered as a Ro-Ro ferry - a roll on, roll off vessel licenced to carry only cargo, which he believes is the case, but not as a R0-Pax ferry which is licenced for both cargo and passengers - then the Ro-Ro insurance will not cover passengers many of whom will be truck-drivers.
“I’m questioning how the Cabo Star was acquired,” he said, said he thought it had just been given a three month certification in Panama as a Ro-Ro vessel. “My question to the Port Authority is are they insured? Is it a Ro-Ro when they requested a Ro-Pax?”. Claiming the Cabo Star is incapable of being registered as a Ro-Pax vessel, he suggested that no naval architect had checked it out before acquisition and he asked, “Who recommended it?”.
Samuel Applewhite, also of the Truckers Association, said a lack of toilet facilities on board the Cabo Star had left some truckers in their desperation resorting to using the face-basin for urination, or urinating over the side of the vessel. Applewhite alleged a lack of sleeping accommodation on board to the detriment of truckers, saying, “We don’t get rest and that could make us a hazard.” The cafeteria supplies just snacks, that are inadequate to feed truckers, he added.
Truckers Association head, Horace Amede, said the Cabo Star has just two toilets, unlike 15 toilets on the predecessor cargo ferry Warrior Spirit and the Superfast Galicia having three toilets plus toilets within each of 15 cabins.
He said Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley had promised he would be liable for anything untoward happening of the barge, but that two truckers had their engines ruined when salt got into the engine manifold, but nothing has been done by Rowley. Amede said shiiping woes over the years had led to millions of dollars in losses to truckers. "REplace the boat (Cabo Star)! It's definitely not working." He lamented the many hours that truckers must remain unable to shower on board the vessel, and lack of toilets. This will cause people to get sick. Get rid of that vessel, and now." Ask any remedies, he repliedthat the airconditioning must be fixed; the ferry be fumingated for mites, roaches and rodents; and parking lines must be re-painted to properly accomodate the trucks. He asked about the status of lifeboats, saying welding activity had been observed for four days on the cranes that were hitherto unable to pull down the lifeboats. "We are on the vessl on a daily basis ansmake certain observations."
Opposition Senator Wade Mark hit Tobago House of Assembly (THA) chief secretary Kelvin Charles for his absence from the hearing.