Broken-down equipment causes late delivery of goods
Certain actions are expected to be taken at the St Vincent and the Grenadines Port Authority (SVGPA), following delays last week in the delivery of over 100 containers to customers.
The delays came about because of the inoperability of certain key pieces of machinery at the Campden Park Container Port and Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said he has raised certain questions in relation to the management of the port and action is being taken and more will be taken, as he was lied to.
Responsibility for ports fell under the portfolio of the Prime Minister up to November, 2020, when a new Cabinet was sworn in.
“…Clearly, you know me well enough and I have raised certain questions in relation to [port] management,” Gonsalves commented during a call to the ‘Issue at Hand’ program on We FM on Sunday.
He said that questions have been asked of the board and the chief executive officer, and he has raised a query with Senator Julian Francis who has been charged with responsibility for ports in the new Cabinet.
“…And I having been the minister, have come to certain conclusion because of things which were told to me which were not true.
“I don’t want to go into many details but be assured that requisite action is being taken and will be taken further,” Gonsalves said on Sunday.
The chief executive officer of the SVGPA is Bishen John, while the chair of the Board of Directors is Clayton Burgin.
SEARCHLIGHT has confirmed that there has not been a functioning crane at the Campden Park Container Port since February, 2020 and one of the port’s two stackers has also not been working since October.
The cranes are used to offload cargo from ships, while the stackers move and pack cargo around on the land side of the port and onto customers’ trailers.
Since the malfunctioning of the port’s crane in February, ships have been forced to offload cargo using cranes on board the vessel.
Matters came to a head on December 16 and 17, when container ships from Tropical Shipping and CMA CGM respectively were unable to complete offloading their cargo after their cranes developed problems.
Both ships sailed away from the port carrying a total of 110 containers consigned to businesses and individuals in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The vessel from Tropical Shipping, which had about 80 containers remaining to be offloaded travelled to the United States Virgin Islands where its cranes were repaired. The ship returned to St Vincent on Sunday, when the process was completed. The vessel from CMA CGM sought assistance in St Lucia, where its cargo was rearranged and on Saturday, December 19, it returned to St Vincent when the 30 remaining containers were offloaded.
That same day, Saturday, the only working stacker at the port developed hydraulic issues, bringing to a halt delivery of containers to customers.
According to reports, the stacker was taken out of service and repairs done late Saturday into Sunday, in preparation for the return of the Tropical Shipping vessel on Sunday night.
The Prime Minister said on Sunday that as it stands, all systems at the Campden Park Port are back in place and he has told Senator Francis to make sure that customers do not pay for errors made by the ships or the port.
An emergency meeting of the board of the SVGPA reportedly took place on Monday.
On Monday at the container port, businessman Jerrol Stapleton of Gloja’s Trading said the breakdowns at the facility set back his business, “really bad”.
“We had to go the whole weekend without our goods and people were calling. We had to close the business on Friday. It was real stressful telling people they not getting their goods.
He added that he would most likely receive his goods on Monday, but would be unable to get them on the market before Tuesday, again losing another business day.
“We lost thousands of dollars in sales that we can’t get back. That is four days in the Christmas season and people were spending money for the whole weekend,” Stapleton said.
Another businessman who preferred to remain anonymous said in an attempt to avoid the Christmas rush, he brought his goods in early, but one shipment got held back and was caught up in the breakdown.
“…I anticipated the issues so as I said, I made a pre-emptive strike and brought in my stuff early, but still got caught up in this,” explained the businessman who operates a wholesale company in Kingstown.
Truckers and persons who went to clear barrels were also affected by the breakdown.
Trucker Owen “Sasayea” Lewis said it affected him because, “if we ain’t get work, we can’t do anything.”
He said the maintenance of equipment is “a government issue” and business was already slow because of COVID-19 so the failing equipment made things slower.
“Things different this year, a lot of difference because last year you didn’t have the virus (COVID-19) but to me, the machine problem…thing always happen to thing down here, and it comes because sometimes you work the things too much,” Lewis offered.
Another trucker who preferred to remain anonymous, “because I too popular”, said the right protocols are not in place at the port.
“You know this is hectic season and you catering for this for years. Year go, year come and every end of year you find yourself in the same situation. This is not the first time it happen, but is the first time it affect people so bad,” the experienced trucker said.
He said that it was unprofessional to have main pieces of equipment at the port not working for such a long time.
A worker at the port, who spoke on the condition of anonymity said many issues exist at the port including safety issues.
“If the stacker mash a breaks when the yard wet, it takes a while to stop. The ground is cracking up down here,” he said while pointing out broken down fencing and other eyesores.
A source told SEARCHLIGHT that a new crane had been sourced since June, and recommendations made for its procurement.
Prime Minister Gonsalves said on Sunday that a new crane is not expected to be operational until the middle of January 2021.
On Monday, things were moving at the port, but slowly, delaying the clearing of goods by business people as many tried to take advantage of the remaining days of the Christmas season.