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Stakeholders dismiss barge again at ‘secret’ meeting

PM to reveal ferry plan soon

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley has given Tobago stakeholders a commitment that the cargo ferry issues will be resolved soon. This after he met with Tobago Chamber of Commerce chairman Demi John-Cruikshank and other representatives at a secret location, later identified as the home of businessman James Moreshead, on Easter Monday.

The chamber has called on Rowley to step in to deal with the issue, then wrote to the Prime Minister last week seeking his intervention, after Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan went against the wishes of Tobago stakeholders on a decision to use a barge to transport goods to Tobago.

The secret meeting was geared towards discussing the way forward as it relates to the replacement of the Super Fast Galicia, which departs T&T on Friday.

The media was not invited to the meeting and Rowley has not given any interviews during his time on the island over the Easter weekend.

Members of the media caught up with the Prime Minister at the Mt. Pleasant Recreation Grounds during the Annual Goat Race on Monday, but he remained tight-lipped on the issue, stating that he was in Tobago to relax and enjoy the Easter festivities and that an official statement would be made on the matter.

Contacted for a comment yesterday, John Cruikshank confirmed the meeting occurred and said it featured Rowley, Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles, Tourism, Transportation and Culture Secretary Nadine Stewart-Phillips and other stakeholders.

He said the meeting was very cordial, but Tobago stakeholders made it clear to Rowley that a barge will not be accepted.

“The Prime Minister indicated that there a number of options available on the table for the Government. The board of the port was scheduled to meet on Monday 17 and the minister is expected to get a report today (yesterday) from the board as to what vessel or what options are available to transport cargo from Trinidad to Tobago. We were invited to the meeting by the Prime Minister after the chamber issued a letter to the Prime Minister indicating our concerns,” John Cruikshank said.

“We went to the meeting, we had members of the Chamber, members from the Trucker’s Association, members from the Hotel Association as well as representatives from the Tobago House of Assembly. The meeting lasted for approximately two and half hours, we made it clear to the Prime Minister what our members’ concerns were and we gave him the historical background, especially as to using a barge coming to Tobago.

“He indicated that he is dealing with the matter and he has all the information in his hands, he will make a public statement on the inter-island transportation between Trinidad and Tobago and after that we will comment on what we think, and our feeling as the business community in Tobago.”

Cruikshank said businessman Moreshead offered to host the meeting at his home and it was accepted, but although the meeting was of short notice, it was above board as Tobagonians’ interest was paramount. He said being granted a meeting should not come as a shock to anyone

“It should not be a big surprise to anybody that we met with the Prime Minister,” he said.

“We requested it publicly and then we wrote subsequently to the office of the Prime Minister and then we were granted a meeting with the Prime Minister, but I want to make it abundantly clear that we told him that a barge is not suitable for our situation amongst other things.”