Notes From The Margin

March 19, 2008

Eastern Caribbean Braces For Dangerously Large Waves

Don't be like these guys, exercise some caution around big waves....

A deep low pressure centre that spawned tornadoes and thunderstorms across the US earlier this week is set to generate massive sea swells in the Caribbean over the next two or three days.

The Barbados and Saint Lucia Meteorological Offices yesterday issued weather forecasts indicating that “significant sea wave height” were expected over the Eastern Caribbean, starting today and continuing into tomorrow.

The Barbados Meteorological Office indicated that swells around four to five metres, or 12 to 16 feet, were expected over the coastal waters surrounding Barbados from late Wednesday/early Thursday.

Islands further north are projecting EVEN LARGER waves!

So concerned are officials that in Barbados and St. Lucia the National Disaster Management agencies (Department of Emergency Management in Barbados and National Emergency Management Organisation in St. Lucia) have quietly started to put contingency plans in place in the event that they need to take action.
In Puerto Rico ships are being temporarily relocated, and people are being cautioned….
U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Jim Tunstall in San Juan:-

“This is not a storm that surfers and others that typically enjoy relatively heavy surf need to go out in”

 

We will keep abreast of this story as it develops…..

 

Marginal

March 2, 2008

Troubling Developments In Grenada

On of the more troubling stories to cross the Margin’s radar recently is this story out of Grenada where from what is being said it would seem that police were caught spying on an opposition party planning meeting.

 Grenada’s opposition party has accused the Keith Mitchell administration of spying on a private meeting of its executive and wants Scotland Yard to investigate the allegation.

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) claimed that a police officer was caught secretly recording a closed-door meeting and pointed fingers at the Prime Minister’s New National Party (NNP) as the ones behind the move.

But the NNP has denied the spying allegation.

Of all of the islands of the english speaking Caribbean, Grenada has had one of the most erratic relationships with democracy. Having gone through years of mis rule under Gairy, the Revolution and invasion (or intervention) by the United States military.  In spite of all of the foregoing, Grenada has developed today  into a flourishing and stable democracy.

For the coming election on the Spice Isle the stakes are higher than ever, for the first time in a while it looks as if there may be a real chance of the Government changing.  On the night of the Barbados election we made the statement that the true test of democracy is when the result of the election is accepted by supporters of all parties the winners and the losers.  If anything is allowed to cast doubt on the integrity of the electoral process in Grenada the consequences may be significant.

On an island with Grenada’s bloody history, democracy is too fragile to take anything for granted.

Marginal

 

 

February 25, 2008

Do We Need A Caribbean FBI?

Faced with rising crime rates, Caribbean governments have struggled to keep pace. However at a time of challenging economic conditions and soaring levels of indebtedness, many Caribbean police forces are overwhelmed, underpaid, and under-equipped. This is particularly the case in the smaller economies of the OECS (you will note that I did not say “smaller islands”) The Caribbean with it’s inadquately equipped security forces, and many islands with inlets and coves make the chain attractive as a route for drug traffickers to move narcotics to the metropolitan markets.

The wealthier economies in the region have attempted to strengthen their security apparatus however, they are often faced with criminals who have more sophisticated equipment than they do.  The problem is compounded by the lack of financial assistance for security ( a mindset that is slowly changing).

It is against this background that Trinidad Prime Minister Patrick Manning recently proposed the development of a Pan Caribbean law enforcement agency.

Patrick Manning said a well-trained, equipped regional force with the power to legally operate in any CARICOM country would be part of the answer to combating the crime situation – one which he insists is being driven by the illegal drug trade.

“Many of us in the Caribbean today are challenged by the unacceptable levels of criminal activity in our country, most of which are now spurred by the global traffic in illegal drugs. The trade in illegal arms and gang warfare lead to an unacceptable level of homicide in our main urban centres,” he said, while delivering the keynote address at the recent University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona Campus Commemoration Dinner in Jamaica….

…..Mr Manning said his country had sought to stem the flow of illegal drugs and arms into the country through initiatives which he believes will eventually rid the country of the drug trade, such as round the clock surveillance of the twin island republic’s largely unprotected coastline. But he also noted that the pattern in the past demonstrated that when the operations of drug lords are interrupted in one country they move to another.

“(That) pattern emphasises the need for multilateral efforts among ourselves and with the wider world. Failure to effectively deal with the issue of crime could stymie the economic and social development of the Caribbean,” he said.

Mr Manning further urged CARICOM heads to spearhead the process of greater cooperation in the sharing of intelligence among police forces to head off migratory drug smugglers.

In theory this sounds like a great idea, and we on the margin support it generally. However would such a “federal” force be allowed to operate? To often in the Caribbean there are rumours (and we  aren’t prepared to say they are only rumours) of “certain people” in certain countries being untouchable, would a CFBI be allowed to go after them?If they were it would open an interesting can of worms.

Would the criminals arrested by this federal force be prosecuted in local or regional courts? For example we have many cases of witnesses in Trinidad being murdered before they can testify, we also have rumours of corrupt judiciaries in some countries, would people arrested by the “Federales” have a likely chance of getting convicted in a local court?

When you look at the implications of a Caribbean Law Enforcement agency, it’s not as simple as it might appear at first blush. For it to be really effective it would have to be part of a Pan Caribbean judicial system.

Marginal

February 14, 2008

Proposed Alliance Between LIAT & Caribbean Airlines – It’s Deja Vu!!!!!

Came across an article in the press yesterday that sounded like something we’d heard sometime before…….

 

Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell is proposing the setting up of a new regional airline alliance including LIAT and the national carrier of Trinidad and Tobago, Caribbean Airlines.Dr. Mitchell, who recently held talks with his Trinidadian counterpart Patrick Manning, also met Tuesday with the Barbados Prime Minister David Thompson with the matter of regional air transportation high on the agenda.

Grenada is a minority shareholder in LIAT and Dr. Mitchell is proposing that it enters a cooperative agreement with Caribbean Airlines for the benefit of the regional travelling public.

“What you need is a cooperative arrangement and Caribbean Airline providing services at particular times when LIAT is not able to service those areas, and there are so many opportunities for transport linkages that can be beneficial to any serious airline that we are not utilizing,” Dr. Mitchell told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).

“In my view I would say that only five percent, maximum 10 percent of our people do get the opportunity to travel within the region, in light of the current transportation problems.

“We are talking about CSME (Caribbean Single Market and Economy) and regional cooperation and at the same time our people are not able to travel,” Dr. Mitchell added.

Hmmm….

Wonder if it will work this time.

Marginal

February 1, 2008

Bird Island Again! – Grenada in Maritime Boundary Dispute With Venezuela.

Venezuela’s claim to Bird Island seems about to become an election issue in Grenada with opposition parties protesting the length of time it is taking to settle the matter.

Now Dr. Alexis’ assertion is usually true, however the arbitrator for these issue is usually the UN Law Of The Sea Treaty, however Venezuela is not a signatory to that treaty. (unsurprisingly as Bird Island does not meet the criteria under that treaty for it’s massive claim of sea space). It is unlikely that Venezuela will  recant it’s claim, and this does appear to be a somewhat intractable problem.
Of course, Grenada like almost everyone else in the Caribbean signed up to the Petro Caribe agreement. It sounds like they are about to find out exacly how the strings are attached.
We will continue to follow this story.
Marginal
Further reading:

Details on Aves Island – How Venezuela Controls the Caribbean Sea

Venezuela and Bird Island

December 11, 2007

BNOC GM Points Out The Obvious – Petro Caribe Is A Debt Trap!

We are applauding a statement by the current General Manager of the Barbados National Petroleum Company on the “gift with strings” that is Petro Caribe.

 Ron Hewitt, Barbados National Oil Company General Manager said on Monday, that Chavez’s Petrocaribe is not helping Caribbean countries, but making their finances worst. ” Petrocaribe is not helping at all to coup with the high oil prices, Caribbean countries are just running a large debt with Venezuela. “

 

Petrocaribe is just a scheme to create an oil dependency from Venezuela, added Hewitt at the two-day Caribbean Energy conference at the Hilton Trinidad in Port Spain.

 

“It doesn’t’t represent what we are looking for in Barbados. You have to pay part of the cost now and get a credit. That credit then goes onto your national debt. It’s not an asset….” Hewitt said.

 It is scary that the other Caribbean countries could not see this from the outset.  What is remarkable is that Barbados has been pilloried in all sorts of regional fora for not signing on. The truth of the matter is that Petro Caribe does NOT help the Caribbean, it is NOT in the Caribbean’s best interest. It simply gives Venezuela power over a key sector of our economies and increases our debt. Further the condition of accessing the “concessions” mean that Venezuela will have power over the supply chain so that it will be difficult for those in the Net to escape it.

Marginal

November 30, 2007

Regional Update on Earthquake Aftermath

We came across this article on reliefweb, that gives a good summary of the damage.

On Thursday, 29 November at 15:00 hrs (13:00 hrs local Caribbean time) an earthquake of magnitude 7.4 (National Earthquake Information Center http://earthquake.usgs.gov/regional/neic/) occurred near the island of Martinique – Windward Islands in the Caribbean. The epicentre was located at 14.921°N, 61.264°W. (21 km east of Martinique) at a depth of 145.4 km (90.4 miles). Tremors of varying time lengths and magnitude were felt in other Caribbean islands – Dominica, St. Lucia, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. Mobile phone services have been interrupted in many cases, and the tremor was felt hundreds of miles away in Guyana, on continental South America. However, as the depth of the event is considerable, the impact on the surface has been moderate.

In Martinique there have been reports of rocks fallen on roads and panic in supermarkets as products fell from shelves. The Prefecture scheduled a meeting to revise and evaluate the damages.

In St. Lucia there was some damage to the water lines, though no major damages reported. Some damages in the water lines.

There was temporary disruption of cell phone service in Dominica, but there have been no reports of injury or damage to buildings.

One injury was reported in Barbados when a person stumbled down the stairs during evacuation of a building. One house destroyed in Ellerton, St. George and some land-slides reported.

 This could have been much worse.

Marginal

November 29, 2007

Magnitude 7.3 Earthquake Hits the Caribbean

We all bolted for the door this afternoon as we felt and saw the ground shake beneath our feet. Outside other persons were rushing from buildings and car alarms were going off. By the time we realised what was going on it was beginning to subside. Everyone is asking what’s going on and no one appears to know. Calls on cell phones are met with “Network Busy”, calls on landlines are met with busy tones. No one is hurt but everyone is calling their loved ones to see that they are okay. People are sounding strained on the phone not because they are scared for themselves but because they fear for those dear to them. “My husband is on a construction site”, “My parents are on a plane coming in, will the airport be okay?” “I can’t get through to my children’s school I wonder if they are okay?”  a jumbled montage of thoughts and of concern.

It now appears that there has been a major earthquake just north of Martinique magnitude 7.3 (some sites are reporting 7.4)  it was strong enough to knock a house down in St. George, reports from friends in St. Lucia, Grenada and Trinidad have all reported feeling it and have all reported that they are fine. (thank goodness)

No word yet from Martinique or Dominica. As we get word we’ll post.

It’s a time to hug your family and count your blessings, it could have been much much worse.

Marginal

October 2, 2007

Another LIAT Horror Story

Filed under: aviation,Barbados,blogging,Caribbean,Caricom,Grenada,LIAT,St. Vincent,tourism,transport — notesfromthemargin @ 2:59 am

We found another LIAT horror story online on Mathaba.net, it would seem that their director of news was bound to Barbados from St. Vincent to connect to an Air Jamaica flight. Little did he know what LIAT had in store for him….

After the LIAT aircraft had closed its doors and was taxying to the runway for taking off from St Vincent and the Grenadines airport this morning, the air hostess announced to the surprise of many on board that flight 752 to Barbados was now renamed flight 761 to Grenada.

Affected passengers with connecting flights onward were reassured that the plane would still arrive in Barbados in good time and if need be, connecting flights would wait. In the case of flights to Jamaica and with onward connections to Cuba, those passengers need not worry as there would be “plenty of time” to check-in at the Air Jamaica counter.

However, at the superb Cuban-built airport in Grenada which had been used as an excuse by the United States to invade and overthrow the government of that island nation in 1983, a further delay occured due to a shortage of seats on the aircraft which was now covering for a second flight route.

 

Needless to say by the time the flight got to Barbados, the beleaguered editor  missed his connection. This consolidation of flights is not unusual to anyone who travels LIAT regularly. However there were some interesting observations about transiting through Barbados’ new 200 million dollar HUB airport.

 

Not only are passengers subjected to a lengthy bureaucratic form-filling operation that gives them a visa to remain in Barbados even if wishing to do nothing more than transfer flights, but the immigration officer will pose unwaranted questions!

Passengers in transit through Barbados to independent island nations such as St Vincent or Dominica which long ago threw off British colonialism, but which may not have airports large enough to receive direct international flights, are then subjected to questioning by the immigration officials: “Why are you going to St Vincent (or insert other destination here)?”

Most European and North American travellers are told they must answer these questions if they wish to pass through and may then be told “why don’t you stay in Barbados? We have this that and the other on offer”, however, those more aware usually answer something like “mind your own business, you are not the government of St Vincent.”

The fact of this unjustified questioning is well known among both the community and government and business leaders in St Vincent, and there are already rumblings of doing something about it.

 

Now we’ve heard the Minister of Tourism Noel Lynch talk about how the main function of LIAT is to protect Barbados’ investment in being a hub (which makes sense) however  unless the Government can facilitate the smooth passage of transiting passengers this 200 million dollar investment (plus whatever we have sunk into LIAT) will be wasted.

 

And if you think that there is nothing that can be done about it,  one of the reasons given by Allan Chastenet (St. Lucia’s Minister of Tourism) for pursuing American Eagle was that transiting passengers were being charged Barbados departure tax. When they are booked through on AA they don’t have to pay. The lesson to be taken from that is that unless Barbados can sort out the legal and institutional frameworks for being a functioning hub, being the prettiest airport in the world will get you nowhere.

 

Marginal

September 11, 2007

Super Ferry!

Saw this interesting article on STV this week on National Geographic with regard to the construction of the “Hawaii Super Ferry”, it turns out that the new ferry is the first high speed ferry service to operate in the Hawaiian Islands.

Hawaii Superferry plans to use Austal fast ferry technology to establish Hawaii’s first high-speed vehicle-passenger service. Each catamaran can carry 866 passengers and up to 282 cars (or a combination of 28 twelve metre trucks and 65 cars) and provide services connecting Honolulu to Maui and Kauai in three hours and from Honolulu to the Big Island in approximately four hours. The second ferry will begin service in early 2009. With the entry into service of the second ferry, two round trips per day between Maui and Oahu and one round trip per day between Kauai and Oahu and the Island of Hawaii and Oahu will be offered.

With a draft of 3.6 metres (11’8”) and a beam of 24 metres (78’), the ferry will commute between the Hawaiian Islands at speeds up to 40 knots. The vessel is four decks high, including two decks for the car and truck loading, one deck for passengers and the bridge deck reserved for the pilot and his crew. The 2nd deck or mezzanine deck is 2/3 hoistable in order to facilitate parking for lighter cars and leave maximum parking space for the larger trucks.

The Upper Deck or passenger deck includes many premiere amenities for 866 passengers of all ages besides comfortable seating. This deck includes a bar and lounge on each end, food counter, gift shop, video game room, children’s play area, restrooms, crew mess, purser’s office, and first aid room.

At 40 knots the ferry would be able to make the 100 mile Barbados to St. Vincent Run in just under two and a half hours. When you consider the total time of travel with LIAT (not counting delays) the ferry begins to look attractive. Also the shipping of cargo between the islands would also be revolutionised. Currently several of the islands fly produce to Barbados for onward shipment to the UK in the belly cargo of the transatlantic wide bodies. A major constraint on those industries is the carrying capacity of a Dash 8, which is currently the only effective way of moving between the islands. A high speed ferry could open new opportunities for these segments of the OECS economies.

 

The only question we are left to ask is how much longer will we have to wait for this service?

 

Marginal

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