Truckers are now travelling in a comfortable state on the cargo ferry, the Cabo Star, after the Port Authority moved to fix various issues which had previously rendered their inter-island journey “inhumane”.
President of the Truckers and Traders Association, Horace Amede, told Newsday Tobago last Thursday that truckers were now more comfortable after several adjustments were made on board the ferry by the Port Authority following their grievances aired at a September 6 meeting of the Joint Select Committee on Land and Physical Infrastructure in Scarborough to enquire into the procurement and maintenance of the inter-island ferries.
Secretary of the Truckers’ Association Samuel Applewhite, had told the Committee that a lack of adequate toilet facilities on board the Cabo Star had left some truckers with no other alternatives but to resort to using the face basin for urination, or urinating over the side of the vessel. Applewhite also noted a lack of sleeping accommodation for truckers which he said posed a health hazard for them. And the ferry’s cafeteria supplied just snacks which was inadequate to feed truckers, he added.
Amede had told the Committee that the Cabo Star has just two toilets, unlike 15 toilets on the predecessor cargo ferry Warrior Spirit and with the Superfast Galicia having three toilets plus toilets within each of 15
cabins. “Replace the boat (Cabo Star)! It’s definitely not working,” he had declared, also lamenting the many hours that truckers remain unable to shower on board the vessel. Asked about any remedies, Amede had told the Committee that the ferry’s air condition must be fixed; it needed to be fumigated for mites, roaches and rodents; and parking lines must be re-painted to properly accommodate the trucks. Speaking to Newsday Tobago last Wednesday, Amede said he was satisfied with the work done on the vessel by the Port.
“There is a fully functional cafeteria that has water and refreshments for the guys. We are not seeing as much rats and rodents as we saw before. They changed the schedule for the sailing times to the way it was when the Superfast Galicia serviced the islands.
“After we asked and pleaded with the port to change the times, it is now back to normal where the vessel leaves at 2pm from Trinidad and 11pm from Tobago," he said.
“We have functioning toilet facilities, some of the cabins were made available, from (last) Monday for truckers to rest, and the air conditioning unit is working,” he added.
“Not everything has been completely addressed but they are not things that the truckers cannot deal with and bear with for the rest of the time the vessel is contracted to transport cargo,” he said, citing as an example the fact that there were not sufficient cabins to accommodate all the truckers as “only five or sometimes six cabins available.”
“They say that the boat will be here for a year so we will have to wait and see what is happening, we don’t know what will happen after the inquiry. We can’t say anything further until the Joint Select Committee findings and based on that we will announce what the truckers decide. As for now, we are in a better position now than when the boat first arrived in July,” he said.