Lo­cal boat op­er­a­tors feel­ing the pinch of ‘un­fair com­pe­ti­tion!’

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By

Toni Ni­cholas

The mem­bers of the Rod­ney Bay Sea­far­ers As­so­ci­a­tion say they are a frus­trated and fed-up group. And they blame non-na­tion­als who they say are tak­ing ad­van­tage of legal loop­holes to en­gage in tours. Es­tab­lished in 2012, the as­so­ci­a­tion boasts a membership of ten, one of whom told the STAR: “As far as we are aware they are sup­posed to un­der­take only off-shore tours. Tours to Anse Co­chon, for ex­am­ple, are off lim­its.”

Says Charles Beau­soliel, “Th­ese boats are not en­ti­tled to do half-day and full-day tours. They are sup­posed to stick to off-shore tours where you leave one port and en­ter an­other for more than a day. That’s what they are au­tho­rized to do, not tours where you take peo­ple down to, say, Anse Co­chon, Soufriere and so on.”

Added Charles Beau­soliel, an out­spo­ken mem­ber: “This sit­u­a­tion is hurt­ing us badly. Three months into the year and I have not had a half-day let alone a full-day tour. Our boats are very ex­pen­sive. Added to our huge in­vest­ment are reg­is­tra­tion, li­cens­ing and dock­ing fees at the ma­rina. Things are so bad right now some of our mem­bers can­not meet loan or in­sur­ance pay­ments.”

Ref­er­enc­ing the for­eign boat own­ers, he said: “Some of them en­gage lo­cal busi­ness­men or lawyers to front for them. Oth­ers have con­tacts in key po­si­tions. Then there are those who marry Saint Lu­cian women to be­come cit­i­zens with the right to set up shop here.” He also re­vealed that some of the for­eign boat own­ers of­fer to teach young Saint Lu­cians about sail­ing, which he said al­ways goes down well with the au­thor­i­ties.

“It is not like we don’t have the ca­pac­ity to han­dle cer­tain tours,” said Beau­soliel. “So we are re­ally ask­ing the gov­ern­ment to help stop the for­eign boats com­ing to Saint Lu­cia to do what we are quite ca­pa­ble of do­ing. We are also ap­peal­ing to the big lo­cal tour op­er­a­tors to en­gage us more of­ten.”

The Mar­itime Con­sul­tant at the Min­istry of Tourism, Cuth­bert Di­dier, ac­knowl­edged the lo­cal boat op­er­a­tors had some le­git­i­mate con­cerns but wasn’t sure they were pur­su­ing the right so­lu­tions. He sus­pected they were not as united in their ef­forts as they ought to be, and needed to make their voices heard.

Di­dier said that de­spite the boat­men’s com­plaints “there are real op­por­tu­ni­ties, niche mar­kets that they don’t cater for.” Di­dier also ex­pressed con­cern about the is­su­ing of li­censes by SLASPA with­out con­sul­ta­tion with the Min­istry of Tourism. On the ques­tion of the for­eign boat own­ers com­ing in and en­gag­ing in “train­ing” for young peo­ple he said a bet­ter li­cens­ing regime had to be es­tab­lished. “I think that if you are com­ing in to do train­ing, then you should be reg­is­tered as a train­ing school.”

In 2010 SLASPA pub­lished help­ful tips on how to reg­is­ter ves­sels in Saint Lu­cia, among them that reg­is­tra­tion is also open to in­di­vid­u­als or cor­po­ra­tion in bona fide joint ven­ture ship­ping en­ter­prise re­la­tion­ships with cit­i­zens of Saint Lu­cia. But the min­is­ter is au­tho­rized to per­mit “other per­sons” to do boat­ing busi­ness here in some cir­cum­stances.

Lo­cal boat owner Charles Beau­soliel cries foul.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saint Lucia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.