Government is moving to clamp down on the illegal movement of weapons and drugs between Tobago and Trinidad by acquiring two $20 million vehicle scanners.
This was disclosed by Trade Minister Stephen Cadiz at yesterday’s post-Cabinet news conference held at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair.
Cadiz also announced that Government has agreed to allow freight to be carried on the fast ferries to pick up the slack created because of the lack of cargo between transported between the two islands, due to problems with the Warrior Spirit.
Stating that it was felt that there is an illegal movement of weapons and drugs between Trinidad and Tobago and vice-versa, Cadiz said Government agreed on Wednesday to begin the tendering process for the acquisition of two scanners “so that vehicles going on the freight ferry would be driving through scanner....and can be scanned in the same way that containers are”. These scanners should be ready in six months, he said.
“Whatever decision we make today is going to be centred around the drug bust, because a lot of this was already in place and determined and it is just a case of where we have not been as fast as we should have been, we would be changing that for sure,” he said.
“It is known that there are guns in Tobago and neither Trinidad nor Tobago has any manufacturing facility for firearms so it is obvious that the guns are coming in from elsewhere. We have to close off every single area we can find that we will lock down. You are getting illicit goods from outside going directly into Tobago, or from Trinidad into Tobago and from Tobago into Trinidad. It doesn’t matter, we will close off all those holes,” he said. Cadiz said the Port container scanner was already here and would be installed by the end of February.
Cadiz said this Government “without a doubt” had shown it had the political will to deal with the illicit drug trade. He said Government was working assiduously to put the methods to place to prevent any illegal activity. He said Government planned to put the container scanner, vehicle scanners, new passenger scanners at the airport, CCTV in the airport and an effective canine unit to produce “a marked difference in how we secure these different ports”.
Cadiz said the issue of goods not being checked when they arrive in Trinidad will have to be reviewed. “Every single export will have to be checked, or do it on a random basis or you know who you have to check. That is (the role of ) gathering intelligence to secure our borders coming in and going out are secured,” he said.
Cadiz said Government is looking at the possibility of getting a “much newer” vessel for service between both islands. The 34-year-old Warrior Spirit which takes freight from Port of Spain into Scarborough has been running on one engine. This has reduced the speed of the vessel from six hours between the two islands to 12 hours for a single direction sailing. “Instead of sailing every day, we (the vessel) can only now sail from Scarborough every other day,” he said. The Warrior Spirit transports general and heavy cargo such as steel beams, gravel and sand and other building materials as well as trailer trucks.
To address this problem, the minister said Government decided that since Tuesdays and Wednesdays are fairly light days for the fast ferries, freight, including three- to five-tonne trucks would be transported to Tobago.
“We can take about 30 of those units per sailing,” Cadiz said.
Cadiz said Government was looking at the terms and conditions of the charter contract for the Warrior Spirit.
He said the area in which vehicles park and where freight is off-loaded at the Port of Spain jetty area is mass confusion and jostling, creating traffic jams in the Beetham area. He said his ministry would be looking to see it can change up the operation there so that some compromise can be made between Tobago area and the Caricom jetty area.