An undetermined number of Barbadians, including local businesses, were among those adversely affected by the shutdown of the Bridgetown Port today. And port officials were worried that up to 10,000 visitors and scores of local merchants would face the same fate over the Easter weekend if a resolution had not been reached in the dispute that led to today’s industrial action.
Like their counterparts at Grantley Adams International Airport, port employees took went on strike in support of protesting workers of the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) who went on strike about a week ago to press for payment of $33 million in outstanding increments.
While the cost to Bridgetown Port Inc could not immediately be determined, Chief Executive Officer David Jean-Marie told Barbados TODAY the gates to the facility remained closed today, preventing the public and the private sector from clearing barrels and commercial cargo.
“That will impact on the merchants and commerce generally, so it is a concern,” he pointed out.
Jean-Marie also confirmed that the entire staff compliment, with the exception of management personnel, were off the job.
While the CEO was concerned about today’s action, he was even more worried that the strike could escalate and impact on the port’s ability to service the eight cruise ships that were scheduled to call here over the Easter weekend.
“It is of major concern to us because we have, for example, four cargo vessels that we would have wanted to discharge and load over the course of today and prior to Good Friday because we don’t normally work cargo vessels,” he said.
“We expect one [major] cruise ship tomorrow for home porting; that is why we are so worried. Those ships need to have storage. Containers are coming on cargo vessels in order to provide provisions for those cruise ships,” Jean-Marie noted.
Home porting refers to where a vessel is based as opposed to where it is registered. The term also often relates to the port in which the ship will take on or change over the majority of its passengers while taking on stores, supplies and fuel.
Jean-Marie said that in addition to the German liner Mein Schiff that was due to home port tomorrow, four other luxury ships were slated for Saturday and three on Sunday.
However, he said the Mein Schiff was of particular importance to Barbados because officials had fought hard to get it to home port here.
“So we need a resolution to this impasse as soon as possible,” said the port chief.