MIAMI, Mar. 19, CMC – The United States Coast Guard says the Cutter Charles Sexton repatriated 27 Cuban migrants Friday to Bahia de Cabañas, Cuba.
The Coast Guard said the repatriation was the result of a migrant interdiction near Key Largo last Sunday.
The Coast Guard said it “helped secure the US border and prevent this sea voyage from ending in tragedy.”
“We discourage anyone from taking to the sea and attempting to reach US soil illegally – they are risking their lives with very little chance of success,” said Captain Aldante Vinciguerra, chief of response for the Coast Guard 7th District.
It is estimated that 1,951 Cubans have attempted to illegally migrate to the US via the maritime environment since January 1, compared to 7,411 Cubans in fiscal year 2016.
The Coast Guard says these numbers represent the total number of at-sea interdictions, landings and disruptions in the Florida Straits, the Caribbean and Atlantic.
ROSEAU, Dominica, Mar. 16, CMC – The management of the St. Croix based Hummingbird Air is currently in negotiations with a new management group as the carrier prepares to suspend its services as of April 1.
Managing Director of Hummingbird Air, Sam Raphael told Dominica News Online that the “major contributing factor” for the suspension of service is that airport fees in the US Virgin Islands were “raised dramatically” last month.
He said another contributing factor, is the inability to allocate sufficient time towards the day to day running of the airline since he is presently occupied with the reconstruction of a local resort.
“So we had to have the service interruption. It is unfortunate that we had to make the change for both the staff and our customers, but at this point, I think it is the right move to make and from an economic standpoint, it was necessary,” Raphael said.
Concerning the possibility of restarting services, he said “the assets are there” and the company is still valuable, but managing director said could not say what the future holds.
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Feb 21, CMC – Regional tourism officials Tuesday applauded Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders for taking the lead in recognising the critical contribution of the sector to regional economies and a commitment to advancing a regional tourism agenda.
The Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) the region’s tourism development agency, and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), the umbrella private sector organization, said they firmly believe “that tourism is a key driver of socio-economic progress, helping destinations and countries to quickly create jobs and businesses, generate tax revenues and support infrastructure improvements to the benefit of residents and visitor.
“It is a proven tool to lower unemployment, stimulate indigenous entrepreneurial activity, increase foreign exchange earnings, and grow tax revenues for our treasuries.
“However, it is a fiercely competitive business, and we are facing the stark reality that we must find ways of maximizing the collective strength of the Caribbean, if any and all of us are to truly succeed,” the two organisations noted.
CTO Secretary General Hugh Riley last week made a presentation to the regional leaders last week that was also prepared in collaboration with the CHTA,.
The communique issued following the summit noted that that the leaders welcomed proposals from the two organisations for advancing a regional tourism agenda, particularly through public/private Sector Partnerships.
“Heads of Government acknowledged the importance of transportation and facilitation of travel, human resource development, the creative industries and marketing as well as competitiveness and financing for the sustainability of Tourism.
“Heads of Government agreed that public-private sector partnerships, guiding the development and marketing of tourism for the Caribbean, needed to be more effective and requested that the marketing of tourism encompass, in particular, the eco-tourism product of mainland Member States – Belize, Guyana and Suriname.”
Regarding travel, the regional leaders called for an urgent meeting of the Council for Trade and Development (COTED)-Transportation to address air transport issues in particular, including those related to the tourism sector.
The leaders said they also supported the establishment of an Interim Tourism Working Group comprising representation from the CARICOM Secretariat, CTO and the CHTA with the mandate to coordinate with regional public and private sector stakeholder groups, the development of specific solutions to be presented to the next summit in Grenada.
The CTO and CHTA said the support of the leaders “is a progressive and positive move and a welcomed commitment towards furthering the development of our people, so that they can take full advantage of the employment, career and entrepreneurial opportunities available through the region’s largest industry.
“We wish to thank the leaders for placing tourism on their agenda. We are particularly appreciative to Prime Minister Perry Christie of the Bahamas, who has responsibility for tourism in the CARICOM quasi-Cabinet, Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe and Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell for advancing the proposed initiative at the meeting,” the regional tourism bodies said.
By Laura Geggel, Senior Writer | February 15, 2017
It may look like a ribbon of cascading lava, but a so-called “firefall” in Yosemite National Park is actually a regular waterfall illuminated by the bright light of the setting sun.
Almost every mid-to late-February, Yosemite’s Horsetail Fall — a seasonal waterfall that flows when the snowpack melts in the winter and early spring — glows a bright and fiery orange. [Gallery: Most Famous Waterfalls in the US]
However, the firefall happens only under the right conditions. For starters, the sky needs to be clear. In addition, the sun needs to set at the right angle in the western sky; this creates the illusion that the waterfall is burning, Live Science reported previously.
“Even some haze or minor cloudiness can greatly diminish or eliminate the effect,” the National Park Service wrote on its website.
The sight, which now attracts thousands of people annually, is one to behold. But it’s short-lived, happening for only about 10 minutes each day, Live Science reported.
Yosemite visitors hoping to catch an eyeful of the firefall are in for a treat this year, officials said.
“The waterfall is bigger than it has been in a long time due to all the rain and snow we have received,” National Park Service spokesman Scott Gediman told CNN.
Many people have taken to social media to share photos of the astounding firefall. The U.S. Department of the Interior tweeted, “Every February, a rare phenomenon makes Horsetail Fall @Yosemitenps glow like fire. Pic from Saturday by Ray Lee #California #firefall.”
Meanwhile, on Instagram, rayophotography13 posted a fiery photo for Valentine’s Day.
Horsetail Fall flows over the eastern edge of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley. The firefall is best seen from the El Capitan picnic area, located west of Yosemite Valley Lodge and east of El Capitan, National Park Service officials reported.
KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Feb 14, CMC – St. Vincent and the Grenadines Argyle International Airport was officially opened Monday evening with a flag raising ceremony in which Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said that the facility is “a symbol, it is a metaphor of what is possible in us.
“Do not ever allow any people, any nation to impose on us limitations to our imagination,” he told the large crowd that turned out to the opening of the EC$700 million (One EC dollar =US$0.37 cents) facility, six years behind schedule.
“Only we, as a self-governing people under God, with our own individual sense of being; only we must impose limitations on ourselves. Any other notion is a colonial one, and it is debilitating and it will hold us back,” said Gonsalves, who in 2005 announced his administration’s plan to build an international airport at Argyle, on the eastern side of the island.
“Whatever we set our minds to achieve, with patience and calm, we can achieve, as we have seen it here. This is a bridge to the world. And this plan didn’t just come from us. It is a combination of human intelligence and divine inspiration,” Gonsalves said and sang the chorus “I’m building a Bridge”.
Monday’s flag raising was one of two events to mark the opening of the airport, which begins operations later on Tuesday with scheduled flights by intra-regional carriers, LIAT and Grenadine Air Alliance.
A number of international chartered flights from North America and Cuba are also scheduled to land on Tuesday at the airport, which has contributed EC$400 million to the EC$1.6 billion national debt.
The airport has a runway that is 9,000 feet long and 150 feet wide. The terminal building has been designed to process 1.5 million passengers annually and 800 persons an hour at peak.
Gonsalves, who will also address Tuesday’s ceremony, said “today was supposed to be a very simple function and look at the thousands who are here.
“ (Tuesday) I believe we are going to see the largest crowd ever assembled at one place in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And we are going to have a good time. We are going to have a good time because we have been blessed,” he said.
In his address, Gonsalves reiterated that the events on Monday and Tuesday are national ones.
“This is a not a party, political event; neither the one tomorrow (Tuesday). There is enough time, which we have spent on those arguments and we may well spend them on the arguments in the future, but today, now, and tomorrow (Tuesday), with our guests in our midst, I want to ensure that we have a national event, worthy of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Gonsalves said.
“It is inevitable, in the nature of competitive politics, that this or that matter may be said; that something may creep in. But, as prime minister of the country, I want to reaffirm, yet again, that this is a national event,” Gonsalves said, using the event to thank the nations and institutions that contributed to the successful completion of the airport.
He thanked the CARICOM Development Fund, which, of its own resources and through resources from Turkey, contributed to the airport and thanked also the president and the government and the people of Taiwan, which donated the terminal building.
He also recognised “very specially”, three other major partners, namely Venezuela, Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago, which will be featured during Tuesday’s celebratory rally.
President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro is slated to attend and speak at the event as well as Cuban Vice-President, Salvador Mesa.
Gonsalves paid a special tribute to the memory of his “dear friend and brother”, the late prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Patrick Manning, whose widow, Hazel will speak during Tuesday’s rally.
Gonsalves also used the ceremony to recognise other representatives of countries that have assisted with the airport, namely, Austria, Mexico, Turkey, Libya, Georgia, and Iran.
“We have had contributions from countries; some of them do not have diplomatic relations with one another. And part of the creativity and skill of the government was to bring all of these countries together to assist the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
Gonsalves also thanked the governments of Britain, Canada, and the United States of America, whose respective export credit guarantee systems assisted “with certain items of equipment which we purchased, but, because of the guarantee systems we got them on better interest terms”.
Opposition Leader, Godwin Friday, speaking to the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) said the event had the pomp and ceremony that he expected.
“And I hope that the airport turns out to be what we expect as well.”
Friday did not give a clear answer as to whether opposition lawmakers would attend Tuesday’s event, saying “we will see. We will take it one day at a time.”
He said that decision would be informed by “what the nature of the exercise is.
“I think right now what we want to do is to show that commitment to people that this is a national project and whatever the criticisms are, we, in the opposition, we have to raise questions about things that we see in major projects or in government policy that raise concern.
“And if we do that, that doesn’t mean that we are rejecting entirely or we are unpatriotic, as some people might say. We are doing our job. When the project is completed, we hope that, based on the input we have given, that it becomes a better project.”
Friday said opposition lawmakers were at the event to show that they want the project to succeed.
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Feb. 9, CMC – Caribbean tourism broke new ground in 2016, surpassing 29 million arrivals for the first time ever, and once again growing faster than the global average.
“Despite political, security and economic uncertainties and challenges in our main source markets, tourist arrivals to the Caribbean increased by 4.2 per cent in 2016, better than the 3.9 per cent overall internationally,” secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) Hugh Riley announced Thursday in presenting the Caribbean Tourism Performance Report 2016.
“Encouragingly, we welcomed over one million more visitors last year than in 2015, to reach 29.3 million, continuing our proud record of continuous growth for the seventh straight year,” he told a news conference held at CTO headquarters, and streamed to a global audience.
Visitor expenditure also hit a new high, growing by an estimated 3.5 per cent to reach US$35.5 billion.
The United States remained the Caribbean’s primary market with an estimated 14.6 million stay-over arrivals, up 3.5 per cent on 2015.
However, it was Europe that recorded the highest rate of growth among the main source markets, led by strong increases from Germany (8.2 per cent) and the United Kingdom (4.1 per cent).
“Despite terrorist attacks in some countries, the Brexit referendum in the UK and bumpy economic outcomes across continental Europe, arrivals from that market climbed by 11.4 per cent, to reach 5.6 million. The strong European performance was evident by the healthy increases of between six and 16.8 per cent in each month, compared to the corresponding month in 2015,” Mr. Riley said.
Intra- Caribbean travel also so performed well, recording a 3.6 per cent increase – the second straight year of growth – despite costly and fragmented air service.
Canada, normally a robust market for the Caribbean, recorded a decrease for the first time since 1994, and only the second contraction since 1982. The 3.3 million arrivals from that market represented a 3.4 per cent drop when compared to 2015.
The South American market also contracted by 10.6 per cent, mainly due to political instability in two of the main sources.
The CTO secretary general also revealed that cruise arrivals grew at a slower pace of 1.3 per cent to approximately 26.3 million, while the hotel sector recorded negative growth, with all hotel indicators contracting, with the exception of the number of available rooms, which grew by just over one per cent, according to Smith Travel Research.
Regarding the outlook for 2017, the CTO predicts increases of 2.5 and 3.5 per cent in long-stay arrivals and increases of between 1.5 per cent and 2.5 per cent in cruise passenger arrivals.
UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 2, , CMC – A group of experts from the United Nations has expressed concern that the new executive order by United States President Donald Trump is in breach of the country’s human rights commitments.
“Such an order is clearly discriminatory based on one’s nationality and leads to increased stigmatization of Muslim communities,” said the UN Special Rapporteurs on migrants – François Crépeau; on racisim – Mutuma Ruteere; on human rights and counter terrorism – Ben Emmerson; on torture – Nils Melzer; and on freedom of religion – Ahmed Shaheed. in a statement issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
“The US recent policy on immigration also risks people being returned, without proper individual assessments and asylum procedures, to places in which they risk being subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, in direct contravention of international humanitarian and human rights laws which uphold the principle of non-refoulement,” they warned.
The Executive Order, signed by Trump on January 27, bars all nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – from entering the US for the next 90 days.
It also stops the entire US refugee programme for 120 days, indefinitely bans Syrian refugees, and halts the planned entry of more than 50,000 refugees in the US fiscal year 2017, which began in October 2016 and will end in September 2017.
Noting that “in the midst of the world’s greatest migration crisis since World War II, this is a significant setback for those who are obviously in need of international protection,” the rights experts stressed: “The US must live up to its international obligations and provide protection for those fleeing persecution and conflicts.”
“The US is also involved in conflicts such as those in Iraq and Syria and its responsibility must extend to offering refuge to those fleeing from the conflicts,” they added.
The Executive Order also applies to those who come from the countries listed – whether or not they have valid visa documents or are in transit.
It also affects those who have dual nationality, who either have a passport from one of those countries or are travelling from one of those countries.
“This is deeply troubling, and we are additionally concerned that such persons travelling to the US will be subject to detention for an undefined period of time and then ultimately deported,” the human rights experts said.
Earlier this week Caribbean American Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarkes warned that Trump’s order may extend to the Caribbean.
“I am concerned that he could expand that if we don’t organize and push back now,” Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, told an emergency meeting of the Muslim community in her Brooklyn, New York district Sunday night.
ST JOHN’S, Antigua — The Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) said in a press statement on Thursday that it is waiting to be informed of the measures LIAT will take in dealing with a passenger who caused the disruption and cancellation of one of its flights on December 13, 2016.The passenger, who was on-board an aircraft in Barbados, destined for St Vincent, made a serious allegation that they had detected the smell of alcohol on one of the pilots.
LIALPA said it is aware of the standing procedures the company has in dealing with disruptive passengers.
In the past, these measures have included legal action taken against the passenger(s) and/or the passenger(s) being blacklisted on all LIAT operated flights.
“We are confident that LIAT will deal with this situation no differently.
“We have noted LIAT’s press release where the company strongly refuted the allegations against the pilot, and also noted the pilot’s voluntary submission of independent medical testing showing negative results. We wish to thank the company for clearing the air and letting the public know that the pilot was completely innocent of the allegation.
“However, based on precedent, we are not satisfied with LIAT simply saying that no findings or action was taken by any airport or other authority on the passenger’s allegation. Therefore, we await the company informing us of the actions it will take against this disruptive passenger,” LIALPA continued.
LIALPA stated that it was never in doubt that the pilot was innocent of the allegation and it continues to stand unequivocally in support of our pilot.
“We will also do whatever is necessary to protect the pilot’s reputation and will explore all avenues in doing so.
“LIALPA regrets the disruption and subsequent cancellation of the flight. We want to reassure the travelling public that we are always committed and dedicated to serving you at the highest professional levels. Our social contract with the Caribbean people is unbreakable, and our commitment to transporting you at the highest levels of safety is and always will remain paramount,” the statement concluded.
See earlier report:
LIAT pilot at center of drunken allegation, cleared
JOHN’S, Antigua, Dec 19, CMC – The Antigua-based regional airline, LIAT, Monday said that a pilot accused by a passenger on board one its flights last week of smelling of alcohol, had been cleared of the allegation after he “voluntarily submitted to independent testing by medical professionals in Barbados”.
In a statement, the airline said that the incident had occurred on December 13, when the passenger on the flight to St. Vincent and the Grenadines from Barbados’ Grantley Adams International Airport, “alleged (to have) detected the smell of alcohol on one of the operating pilots”.
“LIAT’s record of safety and training is of the highest standard and the company strongly refutes any such allegation made towards any of its pilots. The pilot voluntarily submitted to independent testing by medical professionals in Barbados shortly after the allegation and as expected, all results were negative.
“All required protocols were followed by our staff and certain passengers were required to submit formal reports to the relevant authorities. This resulted in further delay and the eventual cancellation of the flight.”
LIAT said that “no findings or action was taken by any airport or other authority on the passenger’s allegation.
“LIAT sincerely regrets the disruption of its flight and wishes to assure its passengers that the company, its staff and its crew will continue to operate and serve the travelling public,” the statement noted.
Several media outlets in the Caribbean had reported the incident last Tuesday with one passenger telling reporters “when we were already on the plane, a passenger made an accusation. She said she smelled alcohol on the pilot. The pilot had just passed in the aisle and she said she smelled alcohol on the pilot. And then, the other passengers were like, ‘Yes. We smell alcohol”
The traveller said other passengers then said that that they were not going to travel on a plane where the pilot might have been drinking.
“So she (the passenger) then asked for the pilot to take a breath test. He, of course, refused, and he said if we don’t feel safe travelling with him, he was going to cancel the flight. He, at that point, walked off the plane and went outside.
“The other pilot kept saying that the guy was not drinking alcohol for the day. The lady (passenger) then said she has kids and she has a husband and if he (the pilot) has not been drinking then prove it; let him take a breath test because she smelled alcohol on him when he passed in the aisle.”
The passengers were flown to St. Vincent on Wednesday after spending Tuesday night in Barbados.
Meanwhile, President of the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots’ Association, Captain Carl Burke said the incident underscored “a total lack of respect for the crew, which was displayed by the passengers”.
Burke told the Observer newspaper that the passengers’ behaviour could be as a result of the recent treatment of pilots by management.
“I am not too sure if it’s because of allegations being made by management about pilots being irresponsible, being always sick, of trying to cause the company harm,” Burke said, adding “we heard allegations coming from a particular shareholder that during the carnival, pilots called sick and go out and enjoy themselves.”
According to Burke, LIAT pilots have a reputation for taking their jobs seriously.
“For years, we have seen that these pilots have taken their jobs very seriously, and I would be very curious if that happened to any of our members,” he said.
From left: ABTA CEO, Colin James; Tourism Cadet, Alicia Paul; Tourism Consultant Shirlene Nibbs, 100,000th visitors Greg Murphy and Jean Larsen; US Director of Tourism, Kim Jack Riley
ST JOHN’S, Antigua — Antigua and Barbuda ended 2016 on a high note by celebrating the arrival of the 100,000th US visitor in the year for the first time in recorded arrivals history. This milestone is a crowning achievement in a banner year for tourism that included announcing multiple new properties, breaking ground on new projects, the extension of Heritage Quay Pier that welcomed a Quantum class vessel, Anthem of the Seas, for the first time and a variety of awards and achievements.
The 100,000th US visitor was Jean Larsen, an artist and philanthropist, working with Pink Rock, a breast cancer survivor charity. Larsen who was traveling with her partner, Greg Murphy, on American Airlines from New York-JFK to VC Bird International Airport, was greeted by the minister of tourism, economic development, investment and energy, Asot Michael; CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, Colin C. James; tourism consultant Shirlene Nibbs; US director of tourism, Kim Jack Riley; and tourism cadet, Alicia Paul, with flowers and prizes.
All of the passengers on the flight were treated to special music and dancers upon arrival, as well as a gift bag filled with local delicacies and a discount code for island tours to complement their stays.
Michael shared his pleasure at reaching this landmark, “Today is a great day for Antigua and Barbuda as we mark a significant milestone and celebrate the end of a momentous year for our country. Despite trends across the region showing a decrease in visitor arrivals and spend, our twin-isle nation is defying the odds and showing significant growth in both, including double-digit growth from the US market. Antigua and Barbuda is asserting itself as the new leader in the Caribbean, from new properties, to a growing cruise market, to increased airlift, and we predict 2017 will be an even stronger year in tourism.”
Tourism arrivals from the US have been strong throughout the year, with double-digit growth month over month. According to the latest statistics, at the end of November 2016, arrivals from the US were at an 18.35% year over year increase that is predicted to remain the same or grow once December figures are released.
This growth is particularly significant as the US remains Antigua and Barbuda’s largest source market for arrivals. Overall visitor arrivals have also increased by a strong 7.42% year over year as of November with numbers suggesting the year will end on a substantial increase with over 250,000 visitors overall.
Comes with improved terminal facilities and online booking systems
Last week on November 24, 2016 the Government of Montserrat signed a long awaited contract with Jaden Inc. owners of the Jaden sun ‘fast ferry’ signaling the resumption of ferry services between Antigua and Montserrat, with the potential of services to other islands, such as occasional excursions to St Kitts, Nevis, Guadeloupe and St. Maarten.
According to the Premier the achievement of firstly the agreement by DFID to reinstate the ferry service was ‘hard fought’. The service was welcomed with an Inaugural ceremony on Thursday, Dec 1, followed by a sponsored trip to Antigua as a test of the ride and services along with a sampling of the renovated terminal in Antigua. Also in train was testing the new ‘Online Booking Service’ for the ferry service.
Some 71 persons (we learnt was planned for 20 to 30) included the the Hon Premier Donaldson Romeo, the access coordinator representatives from various government departments, the business community and the media, participated in an organized test run, which according to the feedback or first reaction from the Premier’s office, highlighted some challenges. According to the Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Camille Gerald noted, they are not difficult to overcome, a view shared by the Ag. Access Coordinator Leandre Tuitt.
Mrs. Gerald said, “I think it went well; it was a test… we anticipated we would have hiccups – we had a few but not any that we cannot deal with,” explaining these were due to poor internet service Antigua, immigration problems and with the new online booking system in Montserrat.
She also said the test run was a late decision for which the Antigua authorities were no prepared as the plan was for the ferry to begin officially today, December 2, but she was grateful port authorities, that on a short request, obliged only to turn up on Thursday at the port and found there was no Digicel internet service.
Most of the persons who took the opportunity for the few hours in Antigua and the test run had satisfying experiences with the ferry ride and service as well as glowing remarks about the renovated terminal in Antigua. “The ferry ride was good, I like the new uniforms of the (Jennys..staff) – I thought Antigua got closer Montserrat… with the ride.
I think it went well it was a test we anticipated woe would have hiccups we had a few but not any that we cannot deal with immigration here as a result of the booking. but these things that can be fixed gratitude to immigration officials in Antigua who were not expecting said they were disappointed because of Digicel. Things would have been sooner.
The ferry ride was good, like the new uniform. Thought Antigua got closer to Montserrat the ride was nice…” One person remembered the days, “we had to sit outside on the sidewalk waiting on the ferry this is definitely an improvement.”
remembering waiting on the side outside.
Montserrat has been without a ferry service since April 2016 when renewal arrangements of the contract with Caribe Sun were botched and ill-prepared. Going forward the Government even after having approved funding for a ferry, met with hazards according to official sources, involving the Department for International Development (DfiD) particularly on the local front. After procurement failures made difficult, negotiations with the Premier and DFID headquarters, an eventual fast tracked (single-source) procurement conducted in conjunction with the Government resulted in the Jaden Sun ferry landing a ten month contract. According to sources, the hazards encountered included giving exorbitant and special interest access contracts not necessarily related to the ferry service.
“The Jaden Sun with a passenger capacity of 218 began scheduled operations today December 2, 2016. It is expected to also provide luggage and small cargo services. It will be based at Port Little Bay, Montserrat, with additional accommodation to dock at the Old Plymouth Jetty as required.”