Tour operators in licensing flap

Falling cruise figures have led to a growing number of unlicensed tour operators vying for business outside the Royal Watler Cruise Terminal.

And some are angry that the gates to the area have been closed more narrowly than previously.

Driver Jessica Jefferson was one of several taxi drivers and tour operators vying for business outside the gate recently. She said that many were finding it difficult financially.

“Usually the gate is wide open, but today they are trying to hurt us on the outside because they already have a [booking] company in there. They’re not paying us anything inside. I have three children and am Caymanian and I haven’t got a choice but to come outside.

“We used to work with the company inside, but the money in there is being pooled; $8 per person was having to be split between 18 to 20 bookers, which I thought was unfair.

That’s why I had no other choice but to come out here, and the other bookers are here for the same reason. What we make outside we get to keep, we don’t have to pool it with the others inside,” she said.

Unlicensed operators

Roylee Moore of the Port Authority of the Cayman Islands said there is a process in place for the operation of tours inside port property.

“Everybody operating on the port has to be given permission, so all the independent operators inside have to be pre-authorised by the Port Authority and we issue them passes. To do business on the port you have to be authorised by the Port Authority.

It’s based on numbers; if the space is there, the market is there to accommodate more people … but obviously at this time, in some instances, you’ve got more people [wanting to work] than you’ve got a market there for it 
right now.”

He said that falling cruise visitor numbers from peak years had made it difficult for everyone to gather business. However, there were other reasons that some operators were not working within the port area itself.

“There are some operators on the outside whose permission to operate [inside the terminal] has been revoked for some reason, you had some physical altercations take place… then there are people in general who don’t want to go into the taxi rotation system the port has in place.

So they just do it illegally. That’s the long and short of it.”He added that the gates were closed for security reasons.

Rotation system

On receipt of a license to operate, taxi drivers go into a rotation system at the immediate port area for pickups.

However, those not licensed to operate at the port must operate outside the Harbour Drive and nearby North and South Churchstreet areas as it is illegal to pick up passengers between 6am and 6pm without a license.

Boat owner George Bush said he had been operating tours for 34 years but had fallen afoul of the rotation system.

“I got business trade license, all boat insured, inspected, ready to go; then they started this rotation and chased us out of here. Me owning a business trade license… Something gotta be done.

Those people so fool operating this terminal, you got tourists coming on this dock, they see police everywhere and think it’s a trouble island. They don’t have any sense. They are trying to put all kind of laws on all of us out here, man.”