Victory: Youngsters enjoying their boat trip out west. *Photo supplied
Victory: Youngsters enjoying their boat trip out west. *Photo supplied

Two boat skippers saved the day for schoolchildren yesterday after a ferry stoppage threatened to sink their trip to Dockyard.

The captains of two private vessels came to their rescue just moments after they learned that ferry workers had downed tools, disrupting services for early morning commuters and visitors alike.

According to a spokesperson for the Ministry of Tourism Development and Transport, the stoppage, described as “unwarranted and an inconvenient disruption” relates to an ongoing disciplinary action against a member of Marine and Ports staff and involves a serious incident involving two Bermuda Industrial Union staff members.

The unexpected industrial action caused frustration — and especially for teachers from  Prospect and Warwick Preschools and West Pembroke Primary School, who planned to take their students on excursions in Dockyard. It was not until they arrived at the Ferry Terminal that they found a handwritten note on the door saying that services would be suspended.

“I was flabbergasted and disappointed,” says teacher Bonnie Smith, from Prospect Preschool. “Especially since we were going to Dolphin Quest and this was going to be the last field trip for the school term.”

Mrs Smith immediately called her brother-in-law, Lionel Smith, who runs the Caroline between Newstead Belmont Hills Hotel and the City of Hamilton.

No cost

“He offered to take us. Then we also learned that a parent from Warwick Preschool called Michael Gladwin of the Reef Explorer glass bottom boat and he was glad to assist. Because his vessel was bigger he offered to take students from all three schools up to Dockyard at no cost.”

Mrs Smith says the students enjoyed the boat ride and the highlight of the trip was when the captain took them over the corals so they could see the spectacular underwater views: “I want to thank both Mr Smith and Mr Gladwin from the bottom of my heart.”

Her sentiments were echoed by a teacher from West Pembroke School who said Mr. Smith was even willing to return to Dockyard to take them back to Hamilton: “But the ferry services were restored by the time we were ready to leave.”

By noon, all ferry services were restored; the spokesperson condemning the industrial action: “The decision to down tools this morning was entirely premature and there is no justification for doing so. Thousands of commuters and visitors, including the passengers on two ships in Dockyard, have been left inconvenienced by this wildcat strike. This is extremely damaging to Bermuda’s reputation and these sorts of disruptions cannot be allowed to continue.”

Last night, Cabinet Office advised that the Secretary to the Cabinet, Dr Derrick Binns along with other senior government technical officers convened an emergency meeting with members of the Bermuda Industrial Union late yesterday afternoon.

A spokesperson said: “During the meeting it was agreed that a more constructive protocol centering around solution-oriented communication is established with a view to significantly reducing work stoppages, particularly as it relates to Government’s public transportation and other crucial Government services.

 “Following the meeting, Dr Binns said discussions were ‘healthy and productive and we expect that the steps taken and protocols agreed will minimize service disruptions in the future’.”