PORT OF SPAIN – Two of ten freight containers with relief supplies, which were expected to be shipped today from Carenage to Dominica, had to be offloaded and redirected to the Port of Port-of-Spain for clearance on orders by the T&T Coast Guard yesterday.
This will result in relief items, such as generators, tarpaulins, bottled water, mattresses, blankets, toiletries and canned foods, reaching those most in need being delayed by several days.
Yesterday, Living Waters Community volunteer Dayne Harford, one of several people who gave their time and effort in spearheading the loading of the ten 20-foot long containers, expressed outraged at the incident.
Harford said two containers were loaded at Specialist Chemicals in San Juan yesterday and were “trucked” down to Capital Signal jetty in Carenage, where they were placed on a marine vessel destined for ravaged Dominica when the T&T Coast Guard intervened and gave the instructions for it to be moved to the port for checks and clearance.
“We had another two containers on its way to Carenage also that we had to stop and redirect to the port. We were going to load five containers today, with the remaining five tomorrow and sail on Wednesday evening,” Harford said.
“Now with all this drama we have to take the two containers off the vessel and get the truckers to come back down here to take the containers to the port. Then the boat has to sail up to the Port Authority and then onload again.
“This is too much. It is ridiculous the state our country is in. We are offering to help these people but everything in a mess and disorganised. I am really furious. I am really upset. All these things could have been avoided.”
With all the confusion at the port, Harford said the relief supplies, which were donated by the public, “will no doubt take days to reach Dominicans” who are starving and looting and in a state of despair.
“There was no reason for this. The Coast Guard needs to understand that Dominicans are in a desperate situation right now. It’s urgent that these items get to them as soon as possible,” he said.
“This is just bureaucratic red tape. There is absolutely no reason for us to go to the port except we would be charged a fee for use of their cranes among other things.”
The containers, which will bear the sign “From Trinidad to Dominica with Love,” were filled with donations sent through various organisations, including Living Waters, Blue Waters and St Finbar’s RC Church.
Harford said they had already organised with the Customs and Excise Division to check the containers to ensure that nothing illegal had been placed in them.
Contacted yesterday, T&T Coast Guard public relations officer Lieutenant Sherron Manswell said he was unaware of the incident.
“I don’t have any information on this at all,” Manswell said.
Manswell asked that the T&T Guardian call him back for an update.
However, when we made an attempt to reach him, his cellphone went straight to voicemail.