Cruise taxi operators who claim that bread is being taken out of their mouths, at the start of what is predicted to be a record year for cruise arrivals in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), are pointing fingers of blame toward multiple entities.
The St Vincent and the Grenadines Port Authority (SVGPA), Coreas Caribbean Adventures and also the cruise liners have come under heavy fire from taxi operators over the last two weeks, with the group accusing the other parties of poaching their potential customers and also limiting their access to passengers disembarking cruise ships.
The taxi operators claim that bus tours and water taxis, which must be booked ahead of the cruise arrival, were also being sold to cruise passengers at the terminal, which resulted in less business for taxi men. They also raised an objection to being barred from going beyond Gate 3, the main access point to the cruise ship berth, stating that Coreas Adventures and the water taxis were snatching up passengers as they came off the ship.
Head of the Professional Taxi Association, Arrington Burgin, raised the issue during SVGTV’s Viewpoint program on November 5, which was followed up by a call from the President of the SVG Taxi Association Winston “Pops” Morgan who made a plea to the authorities to make changes to the operation in the interest of the taxi men, as some had not secured any tours since calls to port Kingstown began on November 2.
However, a source close to the situation is seeking to shed light on the situation, telling SEARCHLIGHT that the issues are much more complex than those that are being raised by the taxi men.
The source explained that in the past, the level of congestion at the Cruise Ship terminal interfered with the efficiency and timeliness of operations at the port stipulated by the cruise ships. Overcrowding, late departure of tours and cruise passengers returning after the scheduled time were some of the issues highlighted.
As a way to mitigate this, changes were to be implemented at the terminal including a dispatch system, where instead of individual taxi operators communicating directly with passengers to secure tours, this would be handled by a liaison officer, as well as a quota system which would put a cap on the number of taxis allowed inside the cruise ship berth at any one time.
However, it became a situation of ‘Peter pay for Paul’ as some taxi drivers reportedly flouted the policies and continued to operate against what was set down by the SVGPA.
The source said the number of complaints coming in about the taxi men harassing visitors to secure tours and congesting the berth, meant that the authorities had to step in to bring order and efficiency to the operations or face the possibility of being denied cruise calls in the future.
The source said they have been informed through various channels about efforts to improve the operations of taxi drivers, but some members appear to be resistant to working in the interest of all stakeholders.
The source said they believed that the taxi men were not considering factors such as the ship’s itinerary, noting that the number of port calls prior to arriving in Kingstown would result in a fewer passengers disembarking.
The source denied the claim that the cruise ships and tour bus operators were trying to squeeze taxi men out of business.
For the 2023/2024 season, there are expected to be 377 cruise calls, a 17.5 per cent increase over last year where there were 311 cruise calls.