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Gopee-Scoon hopeful Tobago shutdown will be averted

Published: 
Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The planned two-day shutdown of Tobago businesses is unlikely to occur following talks yesterday between the Tobago House of Assembly and the Chamber of Commerce’s Tobago Division, Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon admitted yesterday in the Senate.

Responding to queries on the collapse of sea bridge and its ramifications, Gopee-Scoon said, “Government understands the concerns of the business community in Tobago and the effect of the ferries on Tobago’s economy. But there’s really no need for shutdown, even though we admit the situation is critical.

“The genesis is the ferry matter. Government has found solutions to this. One being the Galleons Passage vessel ,whose arrival we expect pretty soon. So there’s no need for a shutdown, which will only have a negative effect on the economy. What’s necessary is constant collaboration.”

Saying the THA had made with the Tobago Chamber, she said, “There were some frank and fruitful discussions. There’s unlikely to be a shutdown because there was engagement yesterday on the issue and the impact of the ferry issue on the economy. I don’t want to pre-empt the outcome, but I doubt very much there’s going to be any question of a shutdown in Tobago for two days.”

Gopee-Scoon said THA Finance Secretary Joel Jack was among those who met the Tobago business community for “deep lengthy discussions on solutions not only on ferry issues, but also how we can move to help restore businesses.”

Works Minister Rohan Sinanan, replying to other Opposition questions, reiterated that the Port Authority had removed the T&T Express from the ferry service for safety reasons until all outstanding work is completed. He said the ferry had been handling the passenger service alone, doing the crossing in four hours and was overdue for statutory maintenance. He said the T&T Spirit was also initially scheduled to resume service yesterday, but there’s still outstanding work to be completed on it. That vessel’s now expected to resume operation on or before March 22, he added.

He said from now until March 23, people can purchase ferry tickets and will be accommodated on CAL flights at no extra cost. Passengers with vehicles will be shuttled to the airports (in Trinidad and Tobago) by PTSC. He said CAL is also putting on extra flights and bringing in additional airlines to accommodate passengers going to Tobago. Over March 13-22, only tickets for the Cabo Star can be bought, he added.

Yesterday also, Senate President Christine Kangaloo allowed a request by UNC Senator Taharqa Obika, who sought debate on the ferry issue as a matter of urgent national importance. He noted the crisis caused for Tobagonians as a result of the ferry problems.

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