“The safety of life is the most important criteria,” Governor Sarah Tucker said Thursday morning.
She was responding to questions posed by Discover Montserrat about last night’s “Telling it Like it Is” radio show with Acting Deputy Premier Dr. Samuel Joseph.
Speaking on MCAP’s Viewpoint on ZJB Radio, Dr. Joseph who has responsibility for communications, works, labour, and energy said that he became privy to the communications regarding the procurement of a ferry service for the upcoming St. Patrick’s Festival.
He said on air that the Office of the Premier, the Permanent Secretary Daphne Cassell and the Access Division have been working diligently since the country was reopened September 2022 to procure a ferry.
“They have jumped through hoops, gone around obstacles and limboed under bars to try to get things in place,” the acting premier added. “Certain rules and restrictions are now being looked at in a different light and now being enforced in a manner that it wasn’t before.”
Joseph said that a press release, promotional material for social media and other logistics were in place to announce the new service slated to start March 5. “Despite instructions of the minister, the PS has been instructed separately from the Governor’s Office that nothing can go out.”
The Governor’s Office sent the following response to our query:
“We want to see as many operators use our ports of entry as possible to increase capacity and customer choice. However, All transportation that comes in and out of Montserrat is required to hold the relevant safety certification and insurances set by the regulator. For Air this is ASSI (Air Safety Support International), for Sea this is the MCA (Maritime and Coastguard Agency).
“It is the responsibility of the carriers to ensure they have this information and to provide it to the regulators who check and confirm it is all in order to allow safe passage of passengers.
“There is a legal responsibility to have these in place. Previous announcements, in advance of proof of these certifications being in place. Carriers, subsequently failing to rectify the situation, have then had to withdraw services, resulting in customers losing money and/or being stranded.
“It is better to deal in facts; press releases should only be made when the information is complete and accurate,” the Governor’s statement read.
“My Office, the Port Authority and the MCA continue to work very closely with all parties to seek sea transportation that has the correct certification is in place.
“None of this is new; it has always been the requirement. As Governor, I want nothing more than to increase access by air and sea to and from Montserrat. I take the safety regulations very seriously and would not sanction any operator who could not comply with the safety regulations in place, and who doesn’t have full insurance should anything occur. The safety of life is the most important criteria,” the response ended.
Dr. Joseph said that he if was a betting man he would bet on a ferry will be in place one way or the other by March 5th to 6th.
“Other hoops … will be jumped through. The Cabinet has already agreed on the finances,” he added.
A contract is yet to be signed off on. Last week, Premier Joseph Farrell revealed that the negotiations were with the Jaden Sun, which previously serviced the island up to September 2020.
St. Patrick’s Festival is slated to run from March 10th to 19th, 2023.