by Emmanuel Joseph
Hundreds of thousands of dollars in perishable food produce at the Bridgetown Port could be in danger of spoilage.
No fewer than half dozen importers, who supply produce to hotels, supermarkets and vendors, were today expressing fears over the slow pace at which their containers were being released from the port.
Manager of Market Development and Public Relations for the Barbados Port Incorporated, Freida Nicholls, admitted this afternoon that “two or three straddle carriers had broken down”, compounding the existing equipment challenges being faced by the company.
Nicholls explained that the straddle carriers, which she said had been fixed today, were used to take containers from the dock to the container park and the container truck.
“These are the work horses that move the containers around the port,” she added.
She said, too, that the Gantry crane was currently being serviced.
The management spokesperson pointed out that there has been an influx of cargo into the port, resulting in a back log which she attributed to hurricane Sandy which had held up supplies at various ports around the world.
Nicholls also conceded that much of the equipment at the sea port was aged.
“Things should be back to normal in another day or two,” she added.
But the retailers/importers have continued to express anxiety about the slow speed at which their perishable goods were coming out of the port.
“Time is of essence. Supermarkets, hotels and some small vendors rely on us. They have been calling all the time about their produce. We have three containers there and only got one today. We understand we will get another one tomorrow, but that depends on what time,” lamented an official of one importer.
The official also expressed concern about the fact that while there were cold storage containers, only 24 hours free plug-in was allowed, after which a fee was charged every day.
“We have at least $100,000 worth of produce in our containers. If the container is released on Friday, we would have to wait until Monday to unstuff it,” the business person noted.
This aspect of the port, this newspaper understands, does not work on weekends.
Another importer, who has nearly $40,000 worth of perishable food items at the port waiting to be supplied to hotels, supermarkets and vendors, is also worried about the pace at which the containers were being released.
“I had to send home my 20 workers today because they had nothing to do. There were also men at BICO, where the produce is stored, being paid to wait,” owner of Global Produce, Stanton French, told Barbados TODAY.
“This thing has been happening for the past few months now. I also had four trucks waiting. I only just got one container on the ramp today,” French said.
He was also concerned that with Christmas fast approaching, traffic would be heavy, thus making the timing of release of containers even more critical.
Another concerned businessman who preferred to remain anonymous, said the hold up at the port would affect the bottom line of the truckers who move the containers.
He observed that if a trucker normally freighted 10 containers, they may only now be able to handle a portion of that, because of the break down in equipment.
“For the last month, there has been a go slow at the port, not due to the workers, but because of the lack of equipment,” declared the businessman.
“The port is not in the 21st century. The port does not operate on weekends. The port has to be at the top of the efficiency scale if we are to improve our economy.” [email protected]