by Emmanuel Joseph
A 1,100 per cent increase in fees imposed on freighters at the Bridgetown Port is causing unease among independent cargo transporters.
A group of the freighters told Barbados TODAY that they had been paying $30 per year for a port pass in order to enter the compound and bring out cargo.
“Now we are being forced to pay $30 a month for the same pass. From $30 a year to $360 a year is ridiculous. Men have been blocked from entering the port to bring out cargo for customers if we haven’t paid for the pass,” declared one of the discontented truck drivers.
“I don’t have a problem paying for the pass but not from $30 a year to $30 a month, and they have people from some Government departments or other individuals who are just given a wrist band to go in and bring out cargo, like barrels, and don’t have to pay a cent.”
This truck driver echoed the sentiments of the group in complaining that a number of them had at times spent an entire day parked outside the cargo gate without getting a single job.
“I gine home today and ain’t get a single job,” chimed in another freighter.
Grantley Holder, one of the most vocal of the drivers, recalled occasions when “a few” of them had to bail out customers by transporting their barrels home free of charge, because the individuals could not afford to pay them.
“I had a lady who had a little child in her hand, who said to me, ‘Look, I ain’t got no money to pay you’. I decided to take home the cargo for her and when I arrived at the house, I almost cried. There was a little broken down flooring and all the rest was dirt.
“You understand what I telling you? Part of the flooring was ground — dirt,” lamented Holder.
“These are some of the things we have to go through,” he added, “and when some days you don’t make money and you then have to find $30 a month, if you want to break even, how are you going to pass on the cost to your customers, when things already hard in the country?”.
There is yet another issue driving the men mad.
“Do you know that while we as freighters have to pay $30 a month for a port pass, if you hire a ‘second man’ to work with you, he only has to pay $30 a year for his pass? In other words, a man who doesn’t own a truck only has to pay $30 a year. This is foolishness,” pointed out Holder.
He and his colleagues also asked why they were required to pay this money and for what purpose it was being used for, especially since they were not provided with any benefits as the taxi operators were.
Two of the drivers displayed documents that purported to reveal that customers already paid various fees up front to get their cargo out of the port.†The document showed a series of fees, namely a security fee, a security surcharge and a handling fee.
The freighters also complained that in addition to the monthly port pass charge, “every month we renewed the pass, we also have to get a police certificate of character and bring our insurance certificate and road tax”.
The men called for a meeting with the management of the port to clarify and resolve what they believed was a lack of communication regarding the fees and other outstanding matters.
When contacted, Manager of Market Development and Public Relations Officer for Barbados Port Incorporated, Freida Nicholls, told Barbados TODAY that a thorough investigation would have to be conducted into the situation in order to make an informed comment.