The yachting industry has been crippled by the travel restrictions imposed on foreign visitors to combat the covid 19 pandemic and over 2,000 people who earn a living from boat repairs and other associated services could become jobless, according to the Yacht Services Association of TT.
In a statement, the association said the yachting "industry is now at a grave crossroad" and warned that if government did not reconsider its position to grant exemptions to yachties "all will be lost."
Yachties, like other foreign nationals, were debarred from coming into TT freely since mid-March last year when the country's borders were shut to prevent a possible outbreak of covid19.
"Since this global pandemic and our borders closed, the yacht services industry has been struggling to keep afloat as yachts have not been granted exemptions to enter Trinidad unlike our neighbours, where yachts are moving freely in and out of the islands, of course, under strict protocol. Among the yachting community in the Caribbean there have been no reported cases of covid infection or transmission," the association said.
The statement referred to the exemptions granted to the energy and manufacturing sector for specialised workers to travel to TT as questioned why there has been no response to correspondence seeking a safe re-opening of the yachting industry, which has sprouted numerous ship repair yards in Chaguaramas.
"The yacht services sector in Trinidad is world class and operates as a direct foreign exchange earning industry; this income is being lost. The jobs and quality/variety of services provided by our yacht service workers in Trinidad cannot be found anywhere else in the Caribbean. There are many yachts owned by international customers that are in storage in Trinidad. These customers are being barred from entry to return to their property as well as those who would like to sail to Trinidad to conduct much needed work and repairs," the statement said.
The association said in August last year, it had submitted a proposal for the safe reopening of the industry to the chief medical officer which was approved as it satisfied the scientific requirements requested by the government but have not yet received an update.
In its most recent correspondence, the association wrote to the minister of national security requesting possible exemptions for yachties to return but have not had any response.
The ministry has prioritised returning nationals to seek exemptions to return to this country and they now have to fill an online application to seek approval from the ministry.