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Ferries break down as officials unveil transport plan

At least two Government ferries broke down yesterday, little more than two weeks before 6,000 cruise ship passengers are due to arrive, and on the day officials met with taxi operators to go through the new transportation plan for Dockyard. However, Government denied reports that as many as four ferries had broken down, despite vendors in the area telling The Royal Gazette that this was the case, and claiming extra busses had been called in to ferry tourists around. When contacted a Government spokeswoman said: 'A Marine and Ports official advised that while we experienced some challenges with our vessels today, the department did enact a contingency plan to ensure that the inconvenience experienced was at a minimum. Two vessels were out of service for a two-hour period before they resumed operation. 'Meanwhile, two other catamaran ferries continued scheduled service on the Hamilton, Dockyard and St George's routes. Minor delays to scheduled service were encountered but there were no cancellations.' The malfunction came on the day of a meeting of taxi and minibus operators, organised by the Ministry of Transport and Wedco, to hear the new ground transportation plan for 6,200 passengers on the Norwegian Breakaway on May 15. The joint meeting was led by the Transport Control Department's Jasmine Smith, who introduced consultant Larry Jacobs and Wedco general manager Andrew Dias, who said the goal was to make Dockyard a port of entry comparable to other ports 'anywhere in the world'. Mr Jacobs said the key to organised ground transportation at Dockyard will be 'improved communications' but he said the most important factor will be 'consistency'. 'We have a 4,000 passenger ship coming in on May 15, the Norwegian Breakaway, and it will be coupled on Wednesday morning through to Friday afternoon by the Celebrity Summit. So between the two ships we will have 6,200 cruise passengers every week for 22 weeks,' he said. 'We've done it before, but we haven't done it consistently every week, so we felt that this was the right time, and the right year, to go to the next level.' He went through the diagram handed out illustrating the new system of staging areas set out for ground transportation services. Special areas have been designated for pre-arranged taxi tour operators close the port, and Mr Jacobs noted that measures have been in place to avoid 'cheating'. 'If you're one of those characters that says they're pre-arranged, and it turns out that you're not, then you're going to be turned back to the staging area and get to the end of the line. We don't want any cheating, and unfortunately there have been a few who attempted to do that, everybody has to comply by the same rule; we are going to crack down on them as we already have,' he said. 'As we gain more experience perhaps we willmodify the plan to meet the needs, but we're not there yet. Right now we want to be strict on what the policy is, and strict on what the operation is,' he added. He noted that the bus stop has been moved 'to ease up congestion in the area where the ferry terminal is'. 'The space where the bus used to go is now going to be occupied by the Dockyard train,' he said. 'We are in the process of finalising the lease of the ferry boat that carries 400 passengers that's going to be dedicated to the Dockyard to St George's run. It needs a place to berth and that place is where the Spirit of Bermuda currently is, and they kindly consented to move, because of side-loading,' he added. He also disclosed that a video will be produced to be shown in passenger cabins before the end of the season on 'what to do once passengers disembark' in Bermuda. Following a question-and-answer session taxi tour operator Jamaine Tucker expressed reservations about the new plan. 'Passengers will still be directed straight to outlets that sell bus and ferry passes,' he said. 'What's also become a real issue is that they don't want tour operators to hold up signs that say you're a guide, and they don't want you to engage with passengers to talk to them about their options.' Mr Tucker also stated that cruise passengers spend more around the entire island while on tour. 'What the current plan is doing is actually hurting the economy even more because we're not seeing that money land here when they buy bus passes and tokens, especially when they cart them all to Horseshoe Bay. 'This government is being shortsighted because they believe the priority is adopting a ground transportation system at the expense of not stimulating the entire economy as much as they could. 'And tour operators who don't have pre-arranged tours are being impacted financially because we're not able to get up close, we're being pushed away. If you have pre-arranged tours then why do they need to be so close? 'Transportation in Bermuda is in shambles because of a lack of foresight,' he added. 'We let the former Directors of Transportation get away with a lot, and they should be held accountable for the mess we're in today. Mr Tucker concluded: 'Whether the dock is ready or not, when we had two mega ships it was a mess then and it will be a mess now. And I doubt very much that passengers will have anything positive to say about their visit, especially the ones that have to be tendered. 'We've known for two years that Breakaway was coming here on an inaugural cruise and we're not ready. The former Government lost the election but those civil servants responsible need to be held accountable for what has not taken place over the last two years.'

Wedco General Manager Andrew Dias and Public Transportation Consultant Larry Jacobs spoke to taxi drivers and mini bus operators in a meeting in Dockyard on Tuesday about changes to the layout of Dockyard parking in preparation for the arrival of the mega ships in May