Dispute over Port fees

Tobago House of Assembly
Over 2,000 tourists were deprived of their visit to Tobago, described in promotion documents as the “Capital of Paradise” as a result of a dispute over port fees between the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (PATT) and Port of Spain-based cruise ship agent Carvalho’s Travel.

The ships Club Med of Club Med Cruises was due to make one final call for the 2011-2012 cruise ship season with 320 passengers and the Braemar of the Fred Oslen Cruise Lines was scheduled to make two calls at Scarborough with a total of 1,854 visitors at the end of March. A third ship was also debarred from docking at the Scarborough Port.

However, the ships were turned away by the PATT whose Chairman Joseph Toney claimed that Carvalho owed the authority $1.6 million in fees.

Tourism and Transportation Secretary Assemblyman Oswald Williams told the weekly post Executive Council media briefing on Wednesday that a decision to debar the ships from docking at the Scarborough Port was taken without consulting with the Tobago House of Assembly (THA). He said because of this incident one cruise line had already indicated to the Assembly and its agent that it will be cancelling calls by its ships for the 2012-2013 season.

He said the claim by Transportation Minister Devant Maharaj that the THA had reneged on an arrangement to post a bond a million-dollar bond so that the ships could dock was untrue. He recalled that the Assembly had informed the Port Chairman that if it was necessary it would post the bond but this arrangement never materialised. Williams described Maharaj as a “stranger to the truth”.

The Tourism Secretary said he then spoke to Tourism Minister Dr Rupert Griffith who told him that “that was not the way to go with the Assembly” and promised to raise the issue with Maharaj. He recalled that Chief Secretary Orville London also spoke to the Tourism Minister on the issue.

“To say that it was the fault of the Assembly that those calls by the ships were cancelled was far from the truth. Mr Carvalho paid close to $1 million mere days before the ships were due to arrive,” Williams said.

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