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Fuel Crisis for Foreign Yachts in Trinidad

By Sue Richards last modified Sep 06, 2008 05:48 PM

Published: 2008-09-06 17:48:56
Countries: Trinidad & Tobago

Noonsite has been contacted by a number of private yachts currently moored in Chaguaramas, Trinidad, who are unable to depart due to no fuel available to foreign yachts.

The problem seems to be that Trinidad's laws (which were designed for shipping) are not geared towards visiting yachts, and of course over the years since the advent of the foreign yacht service industry in 1991, certain difficulties have arisen, one recent one being the sale of fuel to foreign yachts.

The cost of fuel in Trinidad is hugely subsidised by the government to the extent that it costs only about 25% of the international price (at the moment, diesel costs only $US 0.23c per litre in Trinidad). The intent of the subsidy is to make fuel inexpensive for the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, and was never intended to benefit non-nationals.

International yachts have been fortunate enough to be able to buy diesel at this low cost over the past many years without being challenged, however now - owing to the hugely escalated international fuel price - the powers-that-be feel compelled to uphold the law.

As a result, this has created an unfortunate situation over the past few weeks that in practice has not allowed foreign yachts to purchase any fuel at all. Although fuel at the international price is still available to them, none of the fuelling facilities in Chaguaramas suitable for leisure yachts are licensed to sell internationally priced fuel.

Those facilities that do have a license have very large discharge hoses, sell a minimum of 2,000 gals at one time and must complete a "return" for the Customs for every sale. Basically, these facilities are geared to selling fuel to ships, not yachts.

Hence a most exasperating situation has developed in Trinidad for both visiting yachtsmen and fuelling facilities.

One cruiser in Chaguaramas commented, "so far, we cruisers are "held hostage" by the T & T government, unable to leave for more hospitable ports, because we don't have fuel to depart. Many boats in the anchorage are in dire straights unable to obtain fuel for dinghies or generators."

Donald Stollmeyer, CEO of Power Boats Ltd.(one of the yachting fuelling facilities in Chaguaramas), has spent the last fortnight trying to sort out the situation with a host of government ministries, Customs and Excise and legal representatives. "We have really worked hard over the past couple of weeks with the support of the Customs and the Ministry of Energy to resolve the issue, and it appears we now have a workable solution, blessed by all parties concerned. We should shortly be in a position to sell fuel to yachts in normal quantities at the Power Boats fuel jetty, through one of our existing, unused tanks/dispensers although the fuel will now be sold to yachts at the international price.”

Many cruisers feel that these changes to fuel prices for visiting yachtsmen could halt the migration of foreign boats to Chaguaramas that occurs on an annual basis, as the majority are attracted by the low-cost fuel. That remains to be seen, however for now at least, the foreign yachts that have been "trapped" by this situation can be on their way.