A month after nearly $2 million worth of disaster relief equipment arrived here from Japan, the emergency items are still stuck up in the Bridgetown Port awaiting customs clearance.
The revelation was made here on Tuesday night by Japanese Ambassador to Barbados Teruhiko Shinada, who said that on the heels of the recent hurricane devastation in neighbouring Caribbean island, his country was hoping to hand over the significant amount of equipment to Barbados “as soon as possible” to help with its own disaster risk management.
The shipment includes tarpaulins, lighting fixtures and generators as well as other emergency items, and during an official reception marking the birthday of the Emperor of Japan the ambassador appeared eager to have them cleared by customs, even though he acknowledged that “it takes time” to complete such authorization.
“The equipment arrived the beginning of November. So it is about one month,” he later explained to Barbados TODAY on the sidelines of the event attended by several other diplomats, as well as Government officials, international business representatives, academics and members of the media.
Asked if he was confident they would be out of the port before the New Year, Shinada said “it depends on the customs”, adding “I heard the Ministry of Finance is working on that and I hope that the procedure will finish as soon as possible”.
Shinada said once cleared, the items would be handed over to the Department of Emergency Management (DEM).
“It is of course good that the DEM can get those equipment as soon as possible. Fortunately the hurricane season is now over, so we can be more relaxed, but I hope as soon as possible we will be finished,” he said.
This is the first significant shipment of grant aid from Japan to Barbados.
While stressing that Japan was keen to assist Barbados in the areas of marine environment protection and natural disaster risk management, he also disclosed to Barbados TODAY that a second shipment of disaster relief was on the way. This shipment, he said, consisted of four vehicles for rescue operations and “should arrive in Bridgetown within this month”.
During the reception held at the Accra Beach Hotel, Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Steven Blackett did not comment on the stalled shipment, but said the posting of resident Japanese diplomat in Barbados since 2016 has served as a strong signal of the friendship that the two countries shared, adding that since then there has been an increase in the number of Japanese visitors to the island.
However, he did not reveal the numbers.
Blackett, who is the Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development, said Japanese officials continued to make efforts “to ensuring that the Japanese culture is both evident and understood in Barbados”.
He pledged Barbados’ continued cooperation with Japan, adding that “on this current trajectory there will be many more speakers of the Japanese language in and from Barbados”.