By Theresa Goodwin
The manager of the Antigua Port Authority is refuting social media reports that the facility will be closed down amid the global coronavirus pandemic.
Darwin Telemaque said such directives would have to come from the minister with responsibility for the Port Authority, Prime Minister Gaston Browne, and channeled through chairman of the Antigua Port Authority Board, Senator Mary Clair Hurst, and so far, this has not been the case.
He said it is business as usual as most shipping agents have indicated a willingness to continue as normal and workers will be on hand to clear all incoming and outgoing cargo.
“Our lifeline is really our port; 98 percent of what we eat and wear and what we use to cover our homes comes through the Antigua Port Authority. Therefore, it would be very difficult to cut off that link. While several countries have closed their airports, none of them have closed their ports because that is where we receive our supplies since many countries within the region do not produce much,” Telemaque said.
Several countries worldwide have indeed taken a decision to close their borders to incoming and outgoing traffic in a bid to contain the spread of Covid-19.
Antigua and Barbuda became the latest territory to do so as of midnight Thursday, banning all incoming commercial aircraft. A Cabinet release stated that commercial carriers that choose to fly empty aircraft to Antigua will be allowed to enter to collect citizens of their respective countries who want to return home.
Telemaque said the Port Authority and officials from the Antigua and Barbuda Customs and Excise Division have collaborated on a number of protocols that will be implemented following a series of talks.
He also confirmed that discussions are ongoing with trade unions on various safety measures for Port Authority workers.
These measures include work schedule, volume of staff at the Port, and controlled entry in terms of the number of people allowed in any department at a given time.
“We have installed wash basins and sanitisation machines across the entire property, a medical area for the staff if they become ill, and other measures to protect their safety as well as the safety of members of the public,” Telemaque said.
He emphasised that because the Port will be opened for business, it was paramount that these and other measures be implemented.