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Portland captains need help to replace rafts

Published:Wednesday | August 5, 2020 | 12:25 AMGareth Davis/Gleaner Writer
Raft captains display their hand sanitisers and masks donated by Member of Parliament for Portland East, Ann-Marie Vaz.
Raft captains display their hand sanitisers and masks donated by Member of Parliament for Portland East, Ann-Marie Vaz.


Normal operations have resumed at Rio Grande rafting, Portland’s premier tourist attraction site, but a shortage of rafting vessels and other equipment could seriously hamper raft captains from earning their livelihood.

In keeping with the guidelines set by the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the Ministry of Local and Community Development, the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), operators of Rio Grande rafting and attractions, carried out extensive sanitisation of the rafting facilities at Berrydale and also at Rafters Rest, while sensitising all 83 raft captains.

The raft captains also benefited from donations from Member of Parliament for Eastern Portland Ann-Marie Vaz, who provided them with four gallons of hand sanitisers, 85 spray bottles, 200 masks, gloves, and also individual hand sanitisers.

Vaz told The Gleaner that her love and interest in tourism – more so Rio Grande rafting – influenced her decision to make the timely donation to the raft captains, who are about to resume their livelihood after several months of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was an absolute pleasure to assist these raftsmen, some of whom are the breadwinners in their families,” said Vaz.


She continued: “COVID-19 has changed the way we do things, and it is important that we observe all the guidelines set by the Ministry of Health. All raft captains are now equipped with masks, hand sanitisers, and gloves to carry out their functions. I am well aware of the challenges facing them and I stand ready to assist.”

The TPDCo last week also conducted a COVID-19 training for the 83 raft captains, who were provided with certificates. As a requirement by TPDCo, each rafting vessel has to be equipped with a spray bottle containing hand sanitiser and each raft captain is required to wear a mask.

But while the raft captains are excited about the reopening of Rio Grande rafting, word has emerged that they might not be able to function effectively, as a majority of the bamboo-fashioned rafting vessels are either damaged or in a bad shape.

“Wi need help bad or else there will be no business for us,” said Lawrence Chisholm, president of the Raft Captains Association.

“It was a good exercise on the part of TPDCo and we were sensitised about the importance of washing hands, social distancing, and wearing a mask. We are well aware of the protocols. Yes, rafting has resumed, but many of us will not be earning a penny any time soon. Should 40 people suddenly turn up for rafting right now, we wouldn’t be able to deliver. Wi nuh have nuh raft, as more than 95 per cent of the bamboo rafts were damaged,” he said.