By Prior Beharry
THE AGENT responsible for more than 90% of cruise ships docking in Trinidad and Tobago is calling for the sector to reopen.
Charles Carvalho, of Carvalho’s Agencies in Port-of-Spain, said that cruise ships will bring in about 2,400 passengers once or twice a week while arrivals at the airports, when all the airlines are operational, could see about 3,300 to 3,500 passengers daily.
He said all crew members and passengers are fully vaccinated once they board a ship just like all the non-nationals who arrive via the TTravel Pass system since borders were reopened.
Carvalho said, “So the ratio difference between the airlines and the cruise ships, should not be a concern about the cruise ships.
“In addition, a cruise ship would be fully equipped with its own infirmary with hospital beds, doctors, nurses employed on a 24/7 basis and can isolate passengers should the need be, unlike an aircraft coming from Toronto, New York, Miami, London, Amsterdam.
“As a country, we must be able to benefit economically from the tourism industry and cruise ships also play an important part. We have already started seeing ships that we were expecting during the upcoming season, go elsewhere, hence the importance for us to receive some kind of positive feedback from the Authorities as soon as possible.
“Just as Brazil and other countries taking that bold step, to protect their cruise industry, we need to do likewise, to prevent any further movement of ships from Trinidad and Tobago.”
The cruise ship sector has been closed since March 2020 due to the pandemic when T&T borders were also closed.
There have been 20 cancellation of cruise ships calling to T&T for 2021 and Carvalho has been trying to get an update from the authorities to no avail.
AZPNews.com contacted the Ministry of Tourism to try to find out when the cruise ship sector was going to reopen.
The Tourism Ministry referred me to Ministry of Health and when I posed the question during the virtual media conference of the Ministry of Health on Wednesday, Principal Medical Officer of Institutions Maryam Abdool-Richards referred me to the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).
An email sent to the OPM has thus far remained unanswered.
In April, Carvalho wrote to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley stating that Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian wanted permission to bring some of their cruise liners for lay-up where T&T would be able to supply them with fuel, food, repair services and crew change in the same way the oil companies were doing.
He also attached a proposal for Crystal Cruises wanting to commence calls to Scarborough in Tobago in August.
Carvalho wrote, “We are just one entity in an industry where thousands of people would benefit exponentially from this business, Like many, my company was not successfully in receiving any of the Government Covid-19 assistance grants and we have been incurring expenses to keep our business active, with no income for over a year.
“In addition, if we allow this cruise business for Tobago to go elsewhere, it would be a terrible immediate loss for our destination, with long-term effects.”
Carvalho correspondence was sent to the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) who in July referred him to the Ministry of Tourism.
The MTI stated, “It is to be noted that MTI has responsibility for the development of the maritime sector as a major area in the diversification thrust, however, the competent authority for administering and advocating on behalf of the cruise ship industry is the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts.”
Carvalho said he was still awaiting word as a number of cruise liners have been contacting him about the status of having them docked for the upcoming season that starts on November 20.