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IT MATTERS TO MARIA: Boat owner cries racism

Maria Bradshaw

IT MATTERS TO MARIA: Boat owner cries racism

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Businessman Ronald Robinson believes he is not being treated fairly by operators of the “tommy lift” at the Shallow Draught dock because of the colour of his skin.
Robinson, a boat owner has accused Willie’s Diving & Marine Services Inc., operators of the lift which hauls boats into and out of the water, of discriminating against him in particular.
The company is owned by well-known marine engineer Willie Hassell, who have refuted outright Robinson’s claims of racial discrimination.
An angry Robinson has charged that for the past few weeks he has been experiencing great difficulty in getting his boat hauled into the water by the company.
“I have been dealing with them for years and it is always a problem,” he said.
He added that the company had refused to take cheques from him, and had given him a contract to sign which he claimed was “very one-sided” and then refused to allow him to attach his boat to their barge.
“I paid them $357 this week in cash because they told me they want cash not cheques and up to now I cannot get my boat in the water because they are saying that I can’t tie to their barge.
“Yet I come out here and see all of their white friends with boats tied to the barge. It can’t be fair that only white people can tie up their boats and blacks can’t. They are giving their friends all of the benefits and black people are not getting treated fairly”, he declared.
Asserting that the company was supposed to make provisions for the boats when they were hauled into the water, Robinson pointed out that he would have problems having his boat attended to if it were to experience any mechanical problems or engine failure while in the Shallow Draught.
He said there was no place for him to put his boat because the area known as the sand pit was reserved for fishing vessels while the other area was rented to catamaran operators.
Robinson, who owns Ajax Construction Company, was also critical of the company’s contract noting that “if anything happens to your boat when they put it in the water all at you”.
He was also critical of the fees charged to haul the boats and he termed them as “excessive”. He argued that the company was renting from the Barbados Port Authority and “should not be charging these excessive fees”.
However when contacted, Hassell labelled Robinson “a very difficult customer” and said his company, which had been operating the lift for about 12 years, did not practise any racial discrimination and has never had any problems with the many boat operators to whom they catered – the majority of whom he said were black.
“He [Robinson] can put his boat in the water anytime. We told him he had to pay cash and sign our contract because we have been having lots of problems in the past getting Mr Robinson to pay us. There are white people who come here and we will not launch their boats until they pay,” Hassell stated.
He explained that the Harbour Master and not his company was responsible for assigning space in the Shallow Draught.
“We can’t allow boats to tie up to our barge because if we have an emergency we have to go and Mr Robinson has nobody here to move his boat. He wants to dictate to everyone what has to be done,” Hassell said, adding that despite the difficulties they would not refuse to launch Robinson’s boat.  
Supervisor Stephen Moore also concurred. “It has nothing to do with colour of one’s skin. It is Mr Robinson’s attitude,” he stated.
Other employees also listed several instances when they had encountered problems with Robinson, while a boat owner who was getting his boat hauled in said Willie’s rates were reasonable.
“Other places charge per length but Mr Hassell charges a flat rate and he is not hard on us. Many of us are fishermen and we have a good relationship with this company,” said the man, who did not give his name.