letter to the editorDear Editor,

This letter addresses the ongoing concerns in reference to Mr. Bardoille’s public statement, re-Dominica News Online, release date July 5th, 2016.
Mr. Bardoille, CEO of the Dominica Air and Seaport Authority (DASPA), has expressed vehemently that action would be sought against persons plying for hire, who are not registered as permit holders. He cites the (Charles-Douglas) Melville Hall Airport Regulations Chapter 47.01.

Airport Regulations Chapter 47.01 are quite comprehendible in that the execution of enforcement is within the confines of the law.

Subsection 7 states “No person shall solicit for any purpose at the airport without the permission of the airport manager.”

Subsection 8 states “No person shall operate for hire any taxicab or omnibus or other vehicle carrying passengers within the airport without the approval of the airport manager and upon such terms and conditions as he may prescribe.”

Subsection 15 states “No person shall operate any motorised equipment on the taxi tracks or loading platform of the terminal building or the aircraft landing area except –
(a) Persons assigned to duty thereon;
(b) Persons authorized by the airport manager.”

Subsections 18 and 20 are equally important when making clear that taxi and omnibus drivers, along with other drivers, are to be governed by the said regulations which give authority to the airport manager to set out guidelines for the smooth and secure operation of the airport.

We must however agree that this statement by Mr. Bardouille has caused some serious and valid concerns within the local taxi operating community.
This has raised issues as to the relevancy and modernity of the law as it stands, and has highlighted areas which may need reform. We therefore have addressed previously sought-after clarification on some of the following areas.

1. PROCEDURE FOR ISSUANCE OF PERMITS: The procedure by which permits are applied for and approved needs to be explicit, not just to new taxi permit-holder registrants but the general public as well. The approval for taxi permit applications should not fall to the ports manager alone, but from time to time, a board including taxi drivers and other public members, should meet to review and approve applications. Included within the application is a right, if refused a taxi permit, to seek out and obtain reasons for refusal, and a further right to arbitration.

2. LENGTHS AND COSTS OF PERMITS: The costs of obtaining a permit should be nominal and standardized, but should be categorized into seaport permits and airport permits. It should not be exploited as a means to a revenue source, but should be merely for compliance purposes. All permit holders, as is the case, should have expiration timeframes. However, reminders need to sent out to holders before expiration dates.

3. PERMIT RENEWAL: Permit holders should be granted an equal opportunity for authorization renewals, regardless of prior sanctions for delinquency or non-compliance. Holders in violation of the law should have such matters dealt with separately. Every case is unique in that, leniency may be granted in some instances to drivers in accumulation of arrears to obtain a permit, while being denied in other cases. Personal bias should have a zero factor in granting such decisions.

4. AIR/SEA PORT PERMITS: As stated above, port permits should be categorized granting authorization as an airport or seaport taxi operator. Upon successful application, but prior to obtaining a sea or airport permit, authorized holders should be made to attend workshops unique to each operating environment. Operators should be assessed on their fitness for holding such permits, but such assessments should not disqualify them as permit holders. Taxi operators not holding permits, should not be allowed to ply for trade (except for exceptional circumstances) at either sea and/or airports.

5. DESIGNATED AREAS: Port infrastructure should be upgraded to be more compatible to taxi operators. For instance with regards to the Charles-Douglas Airport, taxi lanes should be created some ways out before terminating at strictly enforced, taxi pick up/drop off points, or public engagement areas. All public engagement areas should be given first access rights to arriving/departing passengers. Taxis parked in such public engagement areas should have their permits clearly visible on their windshields. Public engagement areas should be clearly marked as such, and gated off from other vehicular operating areas in all ports.

6. IDENTIFICATION OF AUTHORISED: Port permits should be clearly visible on the windshields of vehicular operators for port security and law enforcement to see. Taxi operators could also be issued copies for lanyard purposes.

Dominica is a small country and taxis are limited in numbers. They also work on their own time schedules with no stipulation from higher authorities as to when they must work individually. The service can therefore be sporadic. If a licensed ‘taxi driver’ who has no airport permit were to be approached by a client, by phone or directly while on the road, with this client needing to go to the airport urgently.

Suppose further that this client is late for a flight and is facing an emergency situation, is it reasonable under the present economic climate being endured, and considering all the facts, to expect that the taxi driver should turn away this opportunity to make some money and instead call for a member of the more privileged few to make the effort and come out to work? How realistic does this sound?

In cases like these, should measures be implemented to exempt (temporarily) such taxi drivers from the permit-holding law? While all tenets of the law should be enforced, it should not victimize and punitively sanction taxi operators. Taxi men and women greatly comprise the life force which sustains the tourism industry. The best outcome is a middle-of-the-road solution which seeks a win-win outcome for taxi operators and the government of the Commonwealth of Dominica.