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Relaxing of Covid rules gives boat operators a boost

Nigel Prescott, owner of Tam-Marina (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The loosening of Covid-19 restrictions tomorrow will offer tour boat operators a much needed lifeline, but more support could still be needed to keep the industry afloat.

Under Phase 3 regulations, the number of people allowed on commercial boats will be based on their listed Marine and Ports capacity – which in the case of some larger charter boats is above the usual group size limit of 50.

Nigel Prescott, the owner of tour boat company Tam-Marina, said the change would provide a vital opportunity for boat operators after a difficult year.

Mr Prescott said: “I am licensed now for 100 people on the Lady Tamara and I am trying to get the weddings back – I lost 16 weddings over the past 18 months.”

He said the limit on the number of passengers in earlier phases had made it impossible to operate larger charter boats.

Mr Prescott said “I can’t do anything with ten people. I have seven or eight staff. You can’t have three people charter a 100 person boat.

“I have been out of business for 18 months and I have not seen a single cent from the Government, but if I had ten or 20 taxis instead, I would have been paid for each and every one.”

He said the lack of business had also severely impacted his Bermudian staff who had to try to find work elsewhere.

The new regulations also allow operators to cruise until 11pm and host overnight cruises, provided that passengers stay on-board throughout the curfew period.

Mr Prescott said he was grateful that the cost to licence a commercial boat was not increased, but after a year out of the water many vessels needed repairs.

He said: “The pumps are no good, the batteries are no good, and the list just goes on.

“Why aren’t we getting duty relief for the things we need to get our boats back in order when the shops are?”

Mr Prescott also questioned the logic behind prohibiting raft-ups, saying that boats rafting up can improve safety.

He said: “I have had a commercial licence for more than 60 years and there have been many times I have saved people that are in a raft up.

“I have attended fires because I was part of a the raft up and, being in the fire service as a reserve years ago, I knew how to deal with it.

“Not too long ago a friend of mine in the water had a heart problem and if they had just been out with his wife alone, he would be dead. The rest of us pulled him out, put him on the fastest boat we had and rushed him down to the ambulance waiting for him at the dinghy club.”

Mr Prescott added that while he would understand a cap to the number of people involved in a raft up, the outright ban did not seem to make sense.

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Published June 05, 2021 at 9:48 am (Updated June 05, 2021 at 9:48 am)

Relaxing of Covid rules gives boat operators a boost

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