Barbados’ fishing industry should benefit from a number of enhancements over the coming months, as Government sets out to improve conditions in the sector.
Ongoing work at the Bridgetown Fishing Complex is expected to see improvements to the fendering of boats in the jetty, an upgrade of the fuel station, repairs to the jetty and a slipway to facilitate the hauling out of vessels.
In addition, there are plans to assist fishermen in getting new vessels, which will be equipped with new technology and powered by renewable energy.
Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey, disclosed these plans during a recent site visit at the facility. He said the total project cost was $4.1 million, and was expected to last about a year.
“One of the decisions that we made early as a Government was that we wanted to improve the conditions for the persons who work in the industry. That would be the vendors, the staff who work in the industry, the fishermen who risk their lives every day to try to get fish for us to consume,” Mr. Humphrey stated.
He explained that the fendering was in a state of disrepair for “two decades” and was flagged as a high priority issue by fishermen, in an effort to protect their boats from being damaged while attached to the jetty.
Under the project being executed by Meranco, the work will be carried out in stages, with the enhancements presently taking place at the main dock. This, the Minister said, would be followed by work on the jetty, which was corroded and needed to be fixed.
“When it is done, it is going to be absolutely transformative,” Mr. Humphrey stated.
He added that the fuelling station would be relocated temporarily to allow vessels the capacity to refuel, and to facilitate upgrades.
There are also plans to institute a slipway to facilitate the hauling out of boats at the Bridgetown Fishing Complex, which presently has “inadequate facilities for haul out in Barbados”.
Meanwhile, the Minister stressed that it was his vision to not only uplift the physical infrastructure of the markets, but to give fishermen economic enfranchisement.
“Therefore, we are also seeking to get new fishing vessels in the market. We are starting what we call a lease-to-own operation, whereby the fishermen will be able to source the vessels through the Government and repay us overtime,” Mr. Humphrey disclosed.
He said it would be an evolving project, which fishermen would benefit from, resulting in a whole new fleet of fishing vessels in Barbados over time.
Those vessels are expected to be equipped with new technology in keeping with technological advances in the industry, and as Government moves towards the use of more renewable energy.
“In the new vessels we build out, we are going to be putting in renewable energy, so that they could use renewable energy in the engines and to fuel the boat and for technology on the boat,” he outlined.
The Maritime and Blue Economy Minister further disclosed that Government was working on the necessary legislation to facilitate the changes and to make it easier for people doing business in Barbados.
These changes are being welcomed by fishermen, who stated that they were long overdue, as damage to the jetty had resulted in damage to the boats over the years.
Fisherman and boat owner, Everton Brathwaite, said: “Change in the market would be a blessing to me.” He was supported by his colleague, Owen Coppin, who noted that the repairs would result in less damage to his boat.