Malfunctioning toilets on the lone cargo vessel servicing the domestic route forced passengers to relieve themselves inside and overboard the vessel during nine hours of sailing between T&T.
The recent malfunctioning was a result of rocks, lemons and clothing placed in the toilet by passengers which choked the vessel’s sewer system, according to the Port Authority.
On Saturday, head of the watchdog group Fixin T&T Kirk Waithe posted photographs on WhatsApp showing “out of order” signs stuck on the doors of the male and female toilets.
Waithe said the toilets had not functioned for five hours on the seabridge and passengers on board were forced to relieve themselves “off the side of the vessel.”
In a release issued yesterday by the Port Authority of T&T, manager of marketing and public relations officer at the T&T Inter-Island Transportation Company Vilma Lewis-Cockburn claimed that rocks were found in the toilets, which led to clogged lines.
Lewis-Cockburn stated that on Thursday the toilet facilities were also clogged by rocks and had to be cleared.
“On Saturday, March 24, again the system was affected and repaired within hours. During these repairs, it was discovered that rocks were found lodged in the toilet vacuum system, which clogged the system,” Lewis-Cockburn stated.
Lewis-Cockburn stated that a similar situation had previously occurred where lemons and pieces of clothing were found in the system, as she appealed to passengers to refrain from placing objects in the toilets since this was against the law to maliciously tamper or destroy the authority’s property.
Secretary of the Inter-Island Truckers and Traders’ Association Samuel Applewhite said yesterday, in the past, male passengers would have urinated in the water or on inside walls of the vessel.
“But if there are no toilets working, passengers would find alternative ways to relieve themselves,” Applewhite said.
Apart from the non-functioning toilets, Applewhite said there are roaches and only hot water available in the washrooms, while only some air-conditioning units were functional.
Applewhite said the vessel has been taking as much as nine hours in some cases to make the journey.
For three weeks, he said, the boat sailed at a delayed time and then eventually experienced engine problems and had to be repaired.
“Before the boat came here they told us it would take five hours,” Applewhite said.
Yesterday, Applewhite said he went to buy tickets for Tuesday’s sailing but was told at the Port-of-Spain Ferry Terminal that none was available.
Applewhite said believed tickets were being sold to drivers of private cars and small vehicles and preference was not given to the truckers ahead of the long Easter weekend. Over 150 truckers use the service daily.
“The thing about it the boat came here to carry cargo and you telling truckers there is no space. This is affecting our livelihood. The boat is not sailing on Monday and Wednesday and I cannot get a ticket for Tuesday. So I am out of a job for the next three days,” he said.
If perishable goods are taken up on Thursday, he said, there was nowhere to store the items as warehouses would be open on Good Friday.
Applewhite said the truckers are at their wit’s end. The lone passenger ferry, the T&T Express, was pulled off the route on March 12, and since then ferry passengers have been accommodated by Caribbean Airlines. The T&T Spirit which has been undergoing repairs since June last year was expected to resume service on March 23, but that has been delayed.
The new passenger ferry, the Galleons Passage, purchased by the Government for US$18.4 m to service the seabridge, is heading to Honolulu, Hawaii from Japan where it is expected to arrive on March 31 before refuelling for its journey to the Panama Canal. The vessel is expected to arrive in T&T by the end of April.
Chairman of the PATT Lyle Alexander said yesterday he could not confirm if rocks were deliberately being flushed down the toilets. Asked if there might have been acts of sabotage by passengers, Alexander said he did not have conclusive evidence to support this claim. Alexander said Port officials would have to speak with the ship’s captain to determine what measures the crew can institute to prevent the situation from recurring. Installing cameras on the ship, he said, was stretching things a bit too far. “If stuff is getting into the system it would more than likely happen when people are in the toilet. It does, in fact, seem as though that things are being inserted into the sewer system. Rocks are not supposed to be there,” he said. While Alexander was not aware of the Inter-Island Truckers and Traders’ Association’s plight he promised to look into the matter.
“I am giving the assurance that their complaints will be looked into. If the truckers have issues with the port they can bring it to us,” Alexander said.
Source: www.guardian.co.tt (Shaliza Hassanali)