On the surface of it, SKASPA is correct. Commercial cargo should not be handled at the intra-island ferry terminal, but rather at the bird Rock facility where Customs is already present.
But was that the intention of the notice that was sent to ferry operators and to the newspapers? We question this because since the edict went forth, imported commercial cargo has been handled at the said terminal without interference. Rather, it seems that this was the culmination of a series of letters aimed at curtailing the functioning of one ferry operator, and to give another operator an advantage.
For over 20 years, the MV Sea Hustler has been operating, with approval of and on the invitation of Cabinet. It has met the safety standards that are imposed at the international level as evidenced by its frequent voyages to and from St Maarten. Right now it is the only vessel fitted with state-of-the-art fire-fighting and safety equipment. It is a cargo & passenger ferry just as all the others are, except that it can handle cargo that the others cannot. This capability has become critically important to Nevis ever since the MV Lady Mignon sank in the Charlestown roadstead. Bear in mind too, that when cruise ships are docked at Bird Rock, that facility is off limits to any other activity. Can you see the inconvenience to the movement of domestic goods that this decision will cause?
We don’t think the ferry pier is congested, certainly not to the point of restricting the operations of a local ferry. Rather, it is very busy, but not well managed. We have already commented that too many activities are centred around the area, each with its attendant problems, but all of which converge at the terminal. Yet few of them have anything to do with marine and pier matters. It bears repeating that apart from being the ferry terminal, the area is a bus stop, a car park, a strip mall, a recreational area, Basseterre’s bathroom, and now has spots for mobile vending.
We want to offer a suggestion, even as we await the dedicated passenger terminal and Bayfront upgrade. Restrict the times when containers and or hazardous materials are to be loaded onto and off the boat. Direct boats from the Windward Islands and all (all) boats from St. Maarten to Bird Rock Pier.
SOLAS, the safety of lives at sea depend on proper management of facilities. But really, does the huckster from disembarking the boat at Basseterre with her two boxes of mango present that much of a risk?