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Results of Trinidad and Tobago US Embassy/Cruiser Meeting In August

By doina — last modified Sep 14, 2006 11:08 AM

Published: 2006-09-14 11:08:29
Countries: Trinidad & Tobago

Knowing that security in Trinidad is a serious concern of cruisers right now I would like to submit the following summary of the meeting held on August 26, here in Chagauramas between the US Embassy and cruisers. Bill Rouse and I organized the meeting and this is the "official" summary.

Tony Bullard, s/v Columbine

Chagauramas

Results of Trinidad and Tobago US Embassy/Cruiser Meeting

If you have been reading some of the discussion topics on Noonsite,the SSCA webpage, as well as other cruiser websites, you may be aware of the troubling situation in Chagauramas, Trinidad and Tobago. Chagauramas, in the past has been somewhat isolated from Trinidad’s serious crime problems, but unfortunately no longer. Additionally, Immigration appears to have developed a negative attitude towards cruisers and giving extensions to remain in Trinidad longer than 3 months. This is an especially serious problem since Trinidad is one of the few places where one can sit out the Hurricane Season and still maintain their insurance coverage, and rarely can any boat project of any size be completed in a timely fashion.

There have been a number of cruiser initiatives and YSATT (Yacht Sailing Association of Trinidad and Tobago, a business advocacy group) has taken some steps to improve both situations. There is now a cruiser-sponsored harbor watch, organized by Frank Lupoh (s/v Carisea), which seemed to be working to reduce crime against cruisers in the harbor anchorages. A cruiser committee made up of Don Perrine (Jade Explorer), Sid Curtis (Antares), Andy Pell (Tixie Lixie), and Bill Langdis (Hope), developed a 50-page report that was presented to local businesses, which demonstrated the economic impact cruisers have on the local economy (in the hundreds of million TTs). It also showed the effect crime has had on other island community businesses who did not take pro-active measures to reduce the risk to cruisers. Many cruisers feel that local businesses and the T&T; government simply are not sensitive to how concerned the cruising community is about these issues.

Bill Rouse (s/v Security) and I contacted the US Embassy by email and asked if they were aware of the situation here and if they would act as our advocate and help elevate our concerns to the T&T; government. Kevin O’Connor, of the US Embassy Citizen Services Department, responded almost immediately and wanted very much to meet with cruisers to get a better understanding of the issues and to help resolve those that could be resolved.

This led to the US Embassy-sponsored meeting of cruisers on August 24, 2006 at the Lure restaurant in Chagauramas. I want to stress that this was an all-cruisers meeting and we and Kevin emphasized this from the very beginning that everyone, not just US citizens, were invited to attend the meeting. We were excited to have cruisers from several nations contact their embassies and representatives from the British, Canadian, and German embassies attended the meeting. After all, we are a global community.

Nearly 200 cruisers attended the meeting which lasted from 1700 to 1850. Jesse James, as usual, and Trump Tours provided free transportation to and from the meeting. The Lure restaurant donated the meeting place and Coral Cove Marina provided free dinghy dockage for the meeting. Many of the marina owner/managers were also present.

The published agenda included briefings concerning:

  • US Embassy services available to cruisers
  • Importance of cruisers registering with their embassies
  • Current Local Crime Statistics/Security Briefing
  • Immigration issues
  • Actions YSATT and Local Business are taking to increase security

One of the most important items coming out of the meeting was the need for cruisers to report crimes to both the local police and their respective embassies. Many of the cruisers present were surprised to learn that only 20 serious crimes (robbery, assault, larceny) had been registered with the police since January, 2006. In actuality the number is significantly higher. We also learned that most embassies were receiving little more than rumors about crime events affecting their citizens. Police can often be slow to respond and finding the appropriate station can often be a real hassle but reporting the crime is very important to the victims and future cruisers.

The embassies promised to address the crime issues with the Trinidad and Tobago Police Commissioner and National Security Officer. The US Embassy had already discussed the immigration issues with the head of the T&T; Immigration Office, would follow-up on the issues, and promised to relay any and all future difficulties to that official. The US Embassy also announced that Kevin Kent, a full time US resident living in Chagauramas, will become the official volunteer Embassy Warden for cruisers and their issues. He will be a direct conduit to the US Embassy and provide security and other important information to registered cruisers on a regular basis. The US Embassy also promised to sponsor additional meetings to assess what progress has occurred and discuss other cruiser issues.

YSATT and several of the local business owners/managers described the actions they were already taking to reduce crime, such as increased security personnel on marina property, added security equipment, revised security procedures and increased efforts to get frequent harbor patrols by the T&T; Coast Guard. Cruisers are already seeing some increased Coast Guard patrolling. YSATT will increase their shuttle service hours of operation so that cruisers will no longer have to walk the roads at night and reduce the hassle of having to unsecure and then secure their dinghies every time they need to go ashore. YSATT is also undertaking an initiative to have a Police/Coast Guard outpost built and manned within the harbor area sometime within the next 12 months.

There was media coverage of the meeting. The Boca and Compass magazines are promising articles concerning the meeting, its issues and to follow-up over the next several months to see what progress was being made.

After the meeting we surveyed how attendees felt about the meeting. The vast majority of cruisers felt that the meeting had been worthwhile and that it was refreshing to see people taking or promising to take specific actions to address crime and immigration issues. Most felt that cruisers have now leveraged every resource available to them to encourage change here in Trinidad in a positive manner. Its now up to the Trini’s to decide to take these problems seriously or to accept that serious economic repercussions may result.

Tony Bullard, s/v Columbine

Commodore

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