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By Carlena Knight

A number of senators were of one accord as the Upper House of Parliament passed the Merchant Shipping Amendment Bill 2020 yesterday.

Barbudan Senator Knacyntar Nedd shared her support for the legislation, saying “‘it will benefit the sister isle greatly” as Barbudans depend significantly on sea transportation.

The Bill speaks to not only the requirements of owning a ship in the country, but implements stipulations requiring ship owners to maintain certain safety standards.

According to Senator Nedd, it will not only improve safety for those onboard, but also will increase revenue, especially for Barbuda which relies on sea transportation for the movement of cargo, people, building materials, fuel, livestock and more.

“Something as essential as this for one’s survival, we must ensure that we not only protect it but strengthen it as well so that it may always produce quality and also perform at its optimum best. What we are doing today with this Bill is to ensure that we have a higher compliance with the safety standards, as the Bill states, which will in turn create or make a more attractive industry so that this will ultimately increase our revenues,” Senator Nedd said.

She believes that, as policymakers, they have an obligation to help prevent disasters and keep residents safe.

This was echoed by Senator Osbert Frederick, a boat owner himself, who reiterated the importance of the legislation.

“I was at the Point Wharf not too long ago and saw this boat being loaded up with cargo and I am saying, what is going on here? I know this boat is registered as a fishing boat and carrying cargo. What is the insurance? Suppose something is to happen? What is the coverage?

“This is what this Bill is trying to do, to bring into effect those standards, that regulatory framework to ensure that these things do not happen. You go down to some of these wharfs around the island and you see some boats and I know we would think twice about going on them. You wonder what’s the safety equipment they have on board, this is what this Bill is trying to do,” he said.

“I remember my father used to always tell me, the sea allows you an error but no mistakes; if you make a mistake out there, you’re dead. And so this is what this Bill is trying to do. Yes, we want the revenue, yes, we want as many ships as possible registering to carry Antigua and Barbuda’s flag but we also want them to know that we have standards and we want our local boaters to understand that we have standards that they must follow.”

Nedd went on to condemn those Barbudan officials who suggested that the amendment is a move by government to cause hardship for the Barbudan people. Instead, she believes it is a welcomed piece of legislation which will be of benefit to them.

“This is definitely not the case and they need to stop it. I would regard this as nothing more than petty politics. It doesn’t even make any logical sense. They are saying that this Bill is a move by the government to cause the ferry operators, the tug and barge operators, some hardship so they are not able to transport goods and services to the people of Barbuda and this is totally not the case,” she said.

She also commended the vessel operators for their hard work following the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma and called for them to come onboard and accept these changes as it is for their safety.

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