The operators of the Rhum Runner, the island’s premier entertainment vessel on the high seas, are totally confused with the mixed signals being given to them in their efforts to resume operations by the authorities in Grenada.
A source close to the company management told THE NEW TODAY that an official of the Ministry of Health had given them the all-clear to engage in business and days later it was indicated to them that the Cabinet of Ministers had not given any approval for the Rhum Runner to re-open its business.
He said that since the lockdown of the country in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, the pleasure boat has been grounded but recently was inspected by the Ministry of Health and the Grenada Tourism Authority (GTA) with the aim to resume operations.
He advised that a Senior Official in the Ministry of Health engaged one of the Company’s Managers on the protocol that should be put in place to ensure that the Rhum Runner was in line with Covid-19 requirements.
These included the use of thermometers for temperature testing, contact tracing, and the purchase of stickers from a sign printer in the south of the island to be used as markers for Social Distancing.
“We have all the protocols. We take it (sticker), we put it on the ground. We have everything – they told us we are good,” he remarked.
According to the member of the Management Team, the company was also provided with an approved Covid-19 seal from Tourism as part of the conditions laid down to resume operations.
He said the only thing the operators of the Rhum Runner do not have in their hands was a comfort letter which the Senior Health Official from the Ministry of Health had promised to provide to them and that is still outstanding.
Just over a week ago, the pleasure boat took to the sea for the first time in five (5) months to fulfill a contract with a private promoter and agreed to carry a 40% load which amounts to only 100 persons, on Rhum Runner 11.
THE NEW TODAY understands that Health Minister Nickolas Steele called the owners of the boat the day after the cruise to question them on the authorisation that was given to resume operations.
The source quoted one of the operators of the business as telling the senior government minister that he had been given the all-clear from the Ministry of Health.
“I said, yes – we had a team from the Health and Tourism and they gave us the certification and their seal of approval. I have that up on my boat,” he quoted the operator as telling the minister.
This newspaper is privy to the exchanges between the Rhum Runner owner and the senior government minister.
“I will have to look into that,” was the response of Steele, and the executive from the pleasure boat replied: “…I ask for it (permission to resume operations) in writing and I didn’t get it and I’m still waiting.”
Minister Steele’s intervention in the matter has apparently worsened the situation for the Rhum Runner.
THE NEW TODAY was told that government dispatched a team last week Thursday to inform the boat owners that no authorisation has been given for them to resume operations and that permission has to be sought from the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF).
The operators contacted acting Commissioner of Police, Edvin Martin who indicated that Cabinet was responsible for the granting of permission.
The owners of the Rhum Runner are concerned with the apparent run around being given to them by officials of Health and Tourism since it was their belief that a Covid-19 Committee headed by Dr. Bert Brathwaite was in place to handle such matters.
A member of the management team noted that the Rhum Runner is being prevented from resuming its operations despite the fact that it has met all the Covid-19 protocols set by officials of Health and Tourism.
It is well known that there are other businesses in the island that are allowed to operate at will, and it is public knowledge that a number of entertainment facilities in the Lance Aux Epines area, some that involve high-level public officers, alleged to be aligned to the ruling New National Party (NNP) administration of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell, are operating freely.
Additionally, the Osprey Line has resumed operations transporting passengers between the mainland and the two sister islands of Carriacou & Petite Martinique.
He lamented the fact that 95% of the Local business of Rhum Runner involves charters from organisations in the country seeking to raise funds for charitable causes, clubs, social and community work.
The member of the management team lamented that the action of the authorities against the Rhum Runner has effectively “shut” the business down.
“We have workers with families to feed, rent and bills to pay” he remarked.
There are numerous reports that last Friday night a senior government minister was spotted at a restaurant in the south of the island “with a large group of friends having the time of their life – not a man wearing mask”.
A few weeks ago, there were reports of another Minister celebrating a 50th birthday with a party involving an estimated 70 persons on 4 boats that went up the islands on a cruise.
There are further reports of another senior government minister who was allegedly involved in a mini regatta in Carriacou in August in which many islanders complained that there were no social distancing protocols being followed by many of the participants.