Ferry standby woes affect funeral

Standby passengers outside the entrance of the Port of Spain Ferry Terminal await access to purchase a ticket to board the MV Jean de la Valette on Sunday. PHOTOS BY ROGER JACOB  -
Standby passengers outside the entrance of the Port of Spain Ferry Terminal await access to purchase a ticket to board the MV Jean de la Valette on Sunday. PHOTOS BY ROGER JACOB -

WHEN Cassandra Hosang's mother died last week, Hosang left her home in Tobago on Saturday to travel to Trinidad to make preparations for the cremation. But as she was unable to return on the ferry on Sunday she is not sure she will be able to return for the service for her mother.

Hosang was one of about 30 people on standby at the Port of Spain Ferry Terminal at 2 pm Sunday who were unable to secure a ticket.

The 50-year-old make-up artist from Signal Hill told Newsday that her mother died in Tobago, but her wish was to be cremated in Trinidad, which was planned for Thursday.

"Now if I couldn't get to go home today, and I can't get to go home tomorrow and her service in Tobago is on Tuesday – where does that leave me?"

She said she had been waiting on standby since since 7 am.

Hosang said the standby system was a "failed system" and a better one needed to be devised.

She said she was told there were no more bookings until May 30.

"Where does that leave people who have serious issues? How do you then assist people like that? This kind of dog-eat-dog nonsense here for people who pay taxes, it's rubbish. It's really rubbish. You getting paid the big bucks – work it out. Make a system. Correct it."

Onray King, 34, who was seeking to go to Tobago after being called for a job, described the system as "ridiculous."

He said, "They telling you come here for eight o'clock. When you reach here eight o'clock you have to wait until ten and then they giving you a chit and then you still have to wait with this chit until 1 pm. And then you waiting until 1 pm and they not calling your number and you still not guaranteed to get on the boat."

He said people were lining up for hours in the sun and not being facilitated.

Cassandra Hosang, right, speaks to a Newsday reporter at the Port of Spain ferry port on Sunday. - ROGER JACOB

King said he had been at the port since Saturday and claimed there was favouritism taking place.

A 32 year-old man who came to Trinidad for business and was seeking to return home told Newsday he arrived late and did not have a number. He said he understood the need for reduced capacity on the ferry due to the pandemic, but he noted there have been no new confirmed cases for a month and the last patient was recently released.

"I think they could lift it a little bit from the 50 per cent."

He said that 75 per cent capacity would be preferable and he suggested a gradual increase in phases.

As part of the covid19 prevention measures the capacity on the ferry was reduced by 50 per cent from 700 to 350 people.

Tobago House of Assembly minority leader Watson Duke in a voice message on Sunday urged the Prime Minister and Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan to look after the welfare of Tobagonians.

He called on the minister to put on additional flights and allow the ferry to take more passengers.

"Daily they are given one plane out of Tobago at 8am and one boat out of Scarborough. People need to survive by coming to Trinidad to get medication, healthcare, conduct business...People need to live."

Sinanan, in a telephone interview, said if passengers were on standby, then they are standby.

"If people come with confirmed tickets they have to go on before you. I don't see an issue with that."

On the request for an increase in capacity, he said this was guided by the Health Ministry and he added that physical distancing must be maintained. He pointed out that extra vessels are available.

"We do have three vessels right now. If there is a demand as we open up different sectors, the Port Authority will make sure we have adequate space."

He said that as more sectors are opened up there will be more people commuting.

"And we are monitoring it and we will increase the flow of the vessels as necessary."

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"Ferry standby woes affect funeral"

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