Truckers have openly rejected the MV Provider as the solution to transporting goods between Trinidad and Tobago.This as they say the Port Authority of T&T has not put the proper systems in place to meet make the temporary solution tenable.
The truckers made their stance clear as they held a placard protest at the Scarborough Port last week, while members of the Tobago Chamber of Commerce met with Tobago House of Assembly Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles and the owner of the MV Provider on board the vessel. And although the Port Authority of T&T announced its intention to provide free ferry tickets to the truckers days after that meeting, several other issues are still outstanding.
Speaking exclusively to Tobago Today yesterday, president of the Tobago Truckers’ Association Horace Amede said he remains hopeful that transport officials will understand the circumstances being faced by his members. He said although he is happy that the management of the Port Authority has agreed to pay for fast ferry tickets for truckers to ensure they leave Trinidad and arrive in Tobago in time to clear their goods, this is only part of the problem.
After their meeting on the boat, Amede spoke about the issues raised.
“They were talking about making several physical adjustments to the boat to accommodate passengers and other issues such as insurance and this will take no less than six months. When we brought up the issue with the owner he said it will be handled—we simply can’t accept that.”
Another issue the truckers highlighted was the amount of time it takes to move trucks between Trinidad and Tobago.
“When the MV Provider docks in Trinidad it’s early and the boat begins to reload for the return trip at 10 am. By the time truckers leave the port to get to their various outlets to collect goods and return to the port it’s already too late to make the sailing on that day, so the truck has to be sent up days after when space is available.”
Amede said agreeing to fund air travel to Tobago for the truckers would have been the better option but the port refused this. However, he said the MV Provider simply cannot meet their needs.
“That solution does not even work as a short term solution so it definitely cannot be accepted as anything long term. It lacks capacity and it cannot accommodate passengers and the docking and loading times have challenges. We need a proper boat as soon as possible”
But he said talks between his organisation and the Port Authority were ongoing and they should have some concrete information by the end of this week.
The use of the barge—the Transporter—has also been rejected by businesses who say their cargo is being damaged by water and salt on the trips, which are also taking longer than the Super Fast Galicia, which left the sea bridge on April 21.
Tobago Chamber of Commerce member David Wong meanwhile said during the meeting with the vessel’s owners, they were told the vessel could transport more and that a change in the loading and sailing times could also be made to meet the needs of the truckers. However, he said this decision was up to the management of the Port Authority.
But Wong said this would incur additional costs in the form of overnight stays and meals. The situation was compounded last week as both fast ferries continued to experience technical difficulties.
However, manager of Marketing and Public Relations Vilma Lewis-Cockburn said yesterday that both vessels were back in operation. However, she said she was “unaware of any meeting with the owners of the vessel and the Chief Secretary and members of the Tobago Chamber on board the vessel.”
Several calls to Port Authority Leon Grant went unanswered.