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File Photo: Passengers on the Island Royalty look on as police officers prevent the boat from going on its Silent Morning Breakfast Cooler Cruise at the Waterfront in Port-of-Spain because of an issue in February last year.

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The T&T Pleasure Cruise Association (TTPCA) has written to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley asking that the industry be allowed to operate as a safe zone.

The letter, signed by president Stephan Mc Connie, said the treatment of the industry through the pandemic “can only be interpreted as discrimination.”

He noted that some establishments currently allowed to operate as a safe zone have been flouting the regulations.

“We are going onwards of two years of continuous closure when other establishments are being allowed to operate and host fete-like events under the guise of a bar and restaurant license. What is even more alarming, is the fact that these events are happening at an indoor space.

Patrons are clearly not wearing masks nor social distancing,” he said.

He said their industry will be able to better ensure that protocols are adhered to and that the safe zone regulations are upheld.

“All our registered vessels provide a scientifically safer outdoor experience. We are also able to control the number of patrons on board as opposed to a bar that has hundreds of people in constant rotation throughout the weekend without time for proper sanitisation. Whilst our operations afford us a better opportunity to thoroughly sanitise vessels before new patrons’ board,” he said.

McConnie lamented that the industry received no governmental assistance for the duration of the pandemic and allowing them to operate will also benefit the wider community.

“Our staff and operations have not benefited from any of the relief funds and grants that have been provided by the government. As such we have experienced great hardship with some persons losing their livelihoods. Our services provide significant gainful employment, both directly to persons especially within the Diego Martin West community, and indirectly to the marinas and service providers who facilitate moorings, repairs and other services to our vessels,” he said.

We are pleading with the administration to please understand that this is not equitable and is unjust on several levels and to consider giving us the opportunity to operate as a safe zone. Our intention is not to prevent any other industry from surviving in these challenging times, however, we are justifiably asking for a fair and equal opportunity to be able to do the same. We have been suffering as an industry and we are more than willing to operate safely,” he said.

Under the current regulations, it is illegal to operate a party boat.

Police are currently investigating two matters involving people aboard pleasure crafts – one involving the Ocean Pelican in which over 100 people were found on Boxing Day and the second involving another party boat in Chaguaramas on January 3, for which 65 people were charged.