THE EDITOR: I was in the process of reading a letter to the editor from a foreign yachtie pleading for Trinidad and Tobago to allow cruising yachts to re-enter the country's maritime borders, when the call came through.
It was from a friend in Grenada who is a part-owner of one of the many boating marinas in Grenada (Tobago still has none) who was in a really good mood, despite the dire covid19-induced, very stressful economic circumstances prevailing over there.
A major part of his upbeat outlook, he said, was the continued decision by the authorities in TT to keep this country's maritime borders completely closed.
Yes, he was actually laughing when he admitted that all of Grenada’s yachting industry is at a price point way above that of Trinidad’s, and even when our borders were open, our borderline hostile Customs and Immigration authorities are generally very unwelcoming to foreign yachties.
Specifically, visiting yacht captains are made to fill out at least five separate forms and all passengers on a yacht visiting Trinidad must present themselves in person to the Immigration and Customs authorities, and this includes sick children and elderly people.
Conversely, in Grenada the boat captain fills out one customs form only and presents all of the passports of passengers on his vessel. So, the generally poor and shabby treatment meted out to yachties visiting Trinidad, over the years, has seen the boat repair and service industry in Chaguaramas drop from a high of US$40 million annually, in the year 2000, to about US$8 million in 2018.
Of course, our maritime borders were shut completely at the end of March last year, except for Venezuelan pirogues and are yet to open, despite Grenada and St Vincent re-opening their maritime borders on a very controlled basis since June of last year.
This understandably has devastated the very important boat repair and servicing industry in Chaguaramas. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.