U.S. and UK encourage Cruise Ships to pull out of TandT
Posted: Thursday, January 16, 2003
By NIRAD TEWARIE, www.trinidadexpress.com
Two cruise ship companies have pulled out of Trinidad and Tobago because of a possible terrorist threat to their passengers.
The two companies, UK-based P&O Cruises and its sister company Princess Cruises, have stopped all visits until further notice citing a report from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office about the possibility of British nationals becoming victims of a terrorist attack while in Trinidad and Tobago.
The last time P&O's Oceana visited Port of Spain in November 2002, it brought an estimated 1,950 passengers.
William Ferreira, chairman of the Furness Group, local agents for both P&O and Princess, said he received word of the pullout a few days before the Oceana was to have returned to Port of Spain on January 4.
When Ferreira contacted P&O's UK office he was told the P&O "were advised by the Commonwealth office in London that because of terrorist threats it was not safe for the vessel to come to Trinidad".
In fact, the report on the British Foreign & Commonwealth office website says: "We believe Trinidad and Tobago to be one of a number of countries where there may be an increased terrorist threat."
Tidco, the country's tourism agency, has recently been taking steps to "assure present and potential visitors from the UK that there is no terrorist threat in T&T", said Renatta Mohammed, Tidco's corporate communications manager.
Mohammed also said the British High Commission in Trinidad has told Tidco officials that "no negative reports concerning Trinidad came from their office". However, Phillip Everest, a press officer at the High Commission, told the Express that the High Commission is part of the process of compiling the report "so we stand by that".
Everest said no such warning had been issued for Barbados since there were not "media and other reports" of terrorists threats to British interests in that country. He declined to elaborate.
However the same web-site report stated that "most visits to Trinidad and Tobago are trouble-free" while advising "sensible precautions".
Contacted for comment, Trade and Industry Minister, Ken Valley said he knew nothing about the cruise ship pullout. Attempts to contact acting Tourism Minister, Joan Yuille-Williams proved futile.
The pullout is a major setback in already bad situation. Figures compiled by the Port Authority reveal that this country lost an estimated 22,920 passengers as a result of the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States.
In addition to port fees, each cruise ship is required to pay the Port US$5 per passenger each time it docks here. The pullout will likely hurt port vendors, taxi drivers and tour operators the most.
Tidco and other stakeholders have made representation to both the governments of Trinidad and Tobago and the United Kingdom to have the report amended before the end of the peak season in April.
The report also warns that "the standard of driving in Trinidad and Tobago is poor. Road accidents and fatalities are a regular occurrence. Use taxis after dark."