Portland raftsmen get help, but still fear for livelihood

November 18, 2016
A raft captain pulling bamboo, which will be used to repair his raft
The office building at Berrydale, which is now up and running.
Daryl Vaz

Raftsmen assigned to Rio Grande Rafting, Portland's premiere tourists attraction, have been provided with a glimmer of hope after receiving money to revive their livelihood, which was disrupted on October 26.

Sixty eight raft captains were dealt a crippling blow after the Rio Grande overflowed its banks, destroying more than 70 bamboo rafts, while dumping mud, sand and other debris inside the ticketing office and terminal building at the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo)-operated raft stand in Berrydale. Yesterday the raft captains were handed cheques totaling $7,500 each to restore their rafting vessels during a visit to Berrydale by Government Minister Daryl Vaz, along with a team from the TPDCo.




"Today, you will each receive money to help you to kick-start your livelihood, "said Vaz. "TPDCo has contributed $5,000 to each raft captain, and through the West Portland Development Fund, which is a private organisation funded by donors, I am donating $2,500 to each raftsman. Your livelihood has been disrupted twice in six months, which sets you on a rocky path. Nevertheless, your plights have been addressed, as you will once again be able to earn an honest payday, "he added.

The raftsmen were also hit hard in April following torrential rain. They each received $8,000 in a combined effort between Tourism Minister Edmond Bartlett and Vaz, who is also member of parliament (MP) for West Portland. And while the raftsmen are grateful for the assistance, a rather threatening situation has emerged, as there are reports that a tour company, Kioki, has cancelled its tours to Rio Grande Rafting, due to damage caused by the recent heavy rain.

"I urged Richard Thompson, who is a representative from TPDCo office in Kingston, to see how best we might be able to accommodate that tour company, as any cancellation at this time would be crippling to our livelihood, " said Lawrence Chisolm, president of the Raft Captains Association. He said that every Tuesday, Kioki would ensure that at least 30 rafting tours take place at Rio Grande. But Vaz said the state of the office and the terminal building at Berrydale are clear indication that management is now able to conduct business on a daily basis, which was somewhat in doubt a little over a week ago.

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