IN 2018, the Chaguaramas Peninsula attracted 771 yachts that cruised the western community of Trinidad seeking to have their ships repaired or replenished supplies.
Last year, only 62 yachts docked at Chaguaramas, which represents a drop of 92% in three years.
The bleak picture was portrayed by Yacht Services Association of Trinidad and Tobago (YSATT) vice president and public relations manager Jesse James, during an interview with Express Business on Friday.
With supporting statistical data, James said that in 2017, 660 yachts arrived in Chaguaramas; in 2018 it was 771, in 2019 it was 284 and in 2020 from January to March 188 moored yachts. March 2020 was the month the government ordered T & T’s borders closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Another surprising figure was the approximate income spent by visiting yachts. James said last year that around US $ 500,000 was spent compared to other years where yachts would have spent up to US $ 15 million.
James said those numbers are disappointing and depressing considering where the industry was a few years ago and where it is now.
“Right before the arrival of Covid in this country, the numbers started to decrease, but the numbers dropped considerably after Covid, as the government did little or nothing to help yachts arrive during the hurricane season in 2020. This caused YSATT to lose their usual customers to the benefit of other neighboring countries.
James explained that the arrival of 62 yachts last year was primarily for repairing boats in need of critical repairs, as Trinidad is known for the best boat repair yards in the Caribbean.
The low number of visiting yachts and the reduction in income, he said, has prompted businesses in the Chaguaramas region to close their doors. This includes the Massy stores which were in CrewsInn and Jacqueline’s Patisserie, which was located within the grounds of Coral Cove. The Zanzibar restaurant also closed its doors and Republic Bank also closed its ATM in Chaguaramas. And now the only ATM available is in the Peake’s Compound.
Entrepreneurs and small businesses operating in the area also told James they are currently operating at 30-40%, while others are between 60-70%.
“These small companies that had the capacity to do big jobs can no longer because their workers, between three and six people, have moved either to Grenada or out of the sector,” James said, adding that many small companies have closed or migrated to Grenada. because the yacht industry is booming and busy.
“Some of the small businesses are just trying to hang on, but have had to depend on income outside the industry. The 30 to 40 percent of businesses that have remained are struggling to stay afloat, ”he said.
“Chaguaramas is almost like a ghost town now,” James said.
T&T not easy
With frustration in his voice, the representative of the yachting association lamented that another big issue that deters yachts from sailing to T&T is the level of bureaucracy at the entrance.
James pointed out that the process of entering the waters of this country, as opposed to other countries, can be frustrating.
“The bureaucracy to process ships is very difficult and without government facilitation it is more difficult and stressful for cruise passengers to enter Trinidad and Tobago. That is why they are looking for more efficient services in Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda and Martinique, ”he said.
It is in this context that YSATT reiterates its call for the single harmonized form, in order to simplify the documentation process for ships on arrival.
“The ease of doing business in the industry is time-consuming and many yacht owners have expressed a desire to come to our waters for hurricane season, but are just skeptical of the hassles they are unaware of in other Caribbean countries. This industry is a handy fruit where millions of currencies can be generated, but it is neglected by the government, “said James.
Express Business visited the website of the Ministry of Trade and Industry which noted that the ministry, together with the private and public sectors, has prepared a yachting policy, 2017-2021. Overall, the policy objective is to improve the economic contribution of the yachting industry through increased foreign exchange earnings, increased employment and more activities. commercial in the form of services relating to yachting. The specific objectives of the policy are to:
• Improve and develop the Trinidad and Tobago yachting product;
• reform and strengthen the legal and regulatory framework;
• improve human resources and technical capacities in the yachting industry; and
• improve the environmental and social sustainability of the yachting industry.
However, when asked if any of the targets were executed, James replied no and he feels the industry is being left to collapse as the government has plans for this part of the peninsula.
Mark Edghill, chairman of the T&T Coalition of Services Industries (TTCSI) which represents YSATT, said the sector has enormous potential and is an extremely easy fruit to attract foreign currency as it requires very little government investment and facilitation. to propel the sector forward.
“Since assuming the role of Chair of TTCSI, we have identified with input from YSATT and other stakeholders, which areas of the sector require urgent attention and intervention in order to capitalize on all opportunities and propel T&T forward. as the premier destination for the global yacht repair market.
“We have committed the Department to take action for this sector and we are extremely pleased with Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon’s recent interest, focus and intention to see this industry realize its potential.
“We hosted an introductory yacht service provider tour on the Western Peninsula to provide first-hand insight into the current state of the industry, the challenges and more of the potential,” said Edghill.
He said he was disappointed with the huge drop in ship arrivals, as it took too long for this sector to receive sufficient attention and simple problems to be resolved.
He stressed that in order to improve the ease of doing business to attract yachts, the single harmonized form should be implemented.
“We discussed other service-based initiatives to provide a more welcoming environment at the entrance as well as improvements to the processes and services available. We also reviewed the safety and security in the waters en route to Trinidad as well as in ports or further offshore in designated areas.
Sustainability initiatives were also discussed to maintain and pursue the future growth of the sector, ”added Edghill.