There are conflicting reports emerging about whether the ongoing impasse at the Bridgetown Port involving registered taxi operators and management of the facility is in fact nearing resolution.
Today, the port released a statement saying it had reached resolution with the two seaport taxi representatives, the Seaport Union and the Bridgetown Port Taxi Cooperative but treasurer of the Bridgetown Port Taxi Services Limited, Villeneuve Greaves, told Barbados TODAY the situation remains unresolved.
Instead, he says taxi operators were hoping for an extended discussion with port officials, to “thrash” out important issues, including the need for a “level playing field” between taxi operators and large tour companies.
“They have met with the two organizations, but it is unresolved. That is why they have to delay implementing it until next year, because it is unresolved. It isn’t going down good,” he said.
For the past two weeks, taxi drivers have been asked to move from the parking lot, which they would usually share with port workers as the winter cruise season nears its peak, leaving scores of taxi operators pouring onto the roadway outside the port’s entrance, where they are slapped with tickets by traffic wardens.
In response, the Bridgetown Port Inc has promised to roll out a new taxi dispatch system to further streamline operations by taxi service providers outside the cruise passenger terminal area and in front of the port’s main gate.
The program, which is slated to start next month will allow all port-registered taxis to have access to the services “which they pay for on a monthly basis,” the statement said. These include freedom to park inside the port facility, use of the social service facilities provided for them and use of a dedicated dispatch facility which regulates entry into and exit from the Port.
“This is in an effort to better regulate the authorised dispatch and exit of seaport-registered taxis and to ensure adherence to the standards outlined in the Code of Practice governing taxi operations with the Port. The ticket-based system, with provisions for verification of assigned passenger loads, will be supervised by port officials and will eventually be digitised.”
The statement also indicated the new system had won the support of president of the Bridgetown Port Taxi Co-operative Society, Charles Layne and president of the Independent Sea Port Union Anthony Eastmond.
In response, the outspoken Greaves indicated that while “the seaport taxi operators who work with the cruise passengers support the port in its attempts to maintain its ratings as an excellent port, safe port, the operators would also like a level playing field,” he said.
Greaves again stressed that the discussion needed to be a bit more wide-ranging, charging that tour operators were still being allowed to offer for sale last minute tours for cruise ship passengers who had not been previously booked, which is not consistent with the existing agreement.
“Tour operators are only allowed to gather business before a cruise reaches the island, or on the ship, before it berths in the port. After that, whoever wants a tour would have to come out to the normal taxi operators,” Greaves explained.
The statement released by the port officials also promised that the new system would “deter the practice of aggressive solicitation” to ensure the delivery of safe, professional and orderly customer services within its precincts which has resulted in more than one cruise vessel advisory since the winter season opened.
In response Greaves accused authorities of taking a “one-off situation” and running with it. While admitting that taxi operators are sometimes aggressive, he argued that cruise ports often did not make provision for the type of orderly conduct being demanded by the Bridgetown Port, and as such, taxi operators should not be blamed for the resulting challenges.
“When a plane lands in Barbados, and people enter the terminal, they have to clear immigration, they have to collect baggage, they are then processed by customs, then they leave the terminal and they usually come out in families, in ones and two’s and so on.
“However, cruise business is a different animal. In every place you go, when a ship lands they probably allow people who buy tours to come off a little earlier than the regular people, and then after that, bedlam. Anybody can come off whenever they like, and they usually come off in the 20s, 50s, and in the 100s and there’s no way you can regulate them,” he argued.
Efforts to reach the presidents of the two port-taxi bodies and officials of the Bridgetown Port to gain more clarity on the way forward have been unsuccessful.