As the saga continues of the selection of a roll-on/roll-off passenger fast ferry to service the inter-island sea bridge, president of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association Chris James has expressed no confidence in the timely sourcing of a vessel.
Visibly fed up of the ongoing delays and controversy in finding a new ferry, James, speaking with Newsday Tobago during the Tobago Consultations on the Establishment of the TT Tourism Regulatory and Licensing Authority Bill 2017, held at the Tobago Nutrition Co-operative Society in Canaan, said the association was very concerned about the situation.
“If the TT Express is to go on dry dock soon, which is what we are hearing, we could be left without a ferry, and that would affect our domestic arrivals even more than it has been affected.
“Recently, the THA Secretary of Tourism (Nadine Stewart Phillips) said that domestic arrivals have dropped by 38 per cent.
“Our figures are slightly more than that, but it is a tremendous hit for us, especially during the July/August period. But really, the whole year we have had a tremendous decrease. With international arrivals stagnant, it is difficult to say how this new group of people, this new body, can react quickly enough to satisfy the demands of the Tobago sea bridge,” James said.
Speaking at last Thursday’s post-Cabinet news conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, Minister in the office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young reported that Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley had mandated a four-member Cabinet sub-committee, which includes Young, and Finance Minister Colm Imbert, Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte and Tourism Minister Shamfa Cudjoe, to find a ferry in the shortest possible time.
However, it was only on Monday, speaking during the sod-turning ceremony for a 20-megawatt upgrade project at the Cove Power Station in Lowlands, Tobago, that the Prime Minister announced that he had mandated the National Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (NIDCO) to help acquire a roll-on/roll-off passenger fast ferry for the inter-island route. This directive followed the recent failed tender process, after which the Port Authority board could give no recommendation on a vessel.
President of the Tobago Chamber of Commerce Demi John Cruickshank is calling for the resignation of members of the Port Authority board, declaring “utter foolishness” their failure to source a passenger ferry for the sea bridge over the last year.
A few months ago, owner of Enchanted Waters Hotel and Patino’s Bar on Shirvan Road, 85-year-old Ken Patino, expressed disgust at the situation after receiving threats of foreclosure on two of his properties, after what he described as “delinquent payments” on his mortgage.
He admitted his business was in arrears because of the decline due to the drop in tourism, and these problems compounded by the air and sea bridge issues in the past year.
“We met with the bank some time ago at the branch in Chaguanas. They called us and we had to go meet them…we had a meeting and as it is right now, we have two properties up for sale. We did a valuation on both and we are now waiting for results…They see a full commitment to sell the properties in order to pay our mortgages, which is what they want anyway, they want their monies,” Patino said.