All Aboard… or Are They?

If there is one thing West Indians love just as much as carnival and feting (on land that is), it’s a good party on a boat ride. Hey, there is even a Soca song or two written or inspired by these fantastic voyages. Tony Prescott’s “All Aboard” and Wayne Rodriguez’s “Footsteps” come to mind.
And just as we have exported our West Indian culture to the North American diaspora, so too these themed boat rides are now much sought after during Labour Day in New York, Miami Carnival and Caribana in Toronto. Even the names of some of the vessels have become legendary – the Jolly Roger and Bajan Queen in Barbados, Harbour Master and Treasure Queen in Trinidad, Carnival, Wave Riders and now the defunct Flamingo of Saint Lucia.

Boat rides are fast becoming a major source of entertainment in several Caribbean islands.  (Photo: Bajantube)

Boat rides are fast becoming a major source of entertainment in several Caribbean islands.
(Photo: Bajantube)

And while these events have become quite lucrative for promoters and persons seeking to hold a fund raising event and are very popular with party-lovers, they have not profited the entertainers who are sometimes hired – at least not as much as they could or should. This is because the organizers and promoters involved have not been taking out the necessary license from ECCO.

The simple rule of thumb is that anywhere that music is being played for public consumption, be it bar, restaurant, nightclub, shopping mall or boat ride, a music license is required. And, the entity responsible for this is ECCO.

Lately the members of the Eastern Caribbean Collections Organizations (ECCO) have been pressuring the entity to enforce such music licenses including those required by promoters of boat ride events.

“What we will endeavour to do in the coming weeks is to ensure that all of these boat rides are properly licensed by the promoters of these events. We will also dialogue with the boat owners to assist us by ensuring when they rent out their vessels for such events, that the promoters have indeed secured their ECCO license,” General Manager of ECCO Steve Etienne says. “In essence, if the boat owners do not ascertain that these licenses are in order, then we can in fact hold them liable. We will also be working closely with the police and NEMO to ensure compliance with the Mass Crowd guidelines which call for certain guidelines to be followed including the requirement for an ECCO license,” Etienne adds.

At a cost of anywhere between EC$50-100 to patrons/revelers, it is averaged that there are over one hundred boat rides annually with a number of these taking place on Sundays or during long holiday weekends for example Easter time, Saint Lucia Jazz Festival and Carnival. The ECCO tariff for a license to these events is 5% of the ticket price or a minimum rate of EC$345. The 5% is discounted by 10% for early payment and an additional 30% if the event is all-inclusive.

According to the head of COSCAP in Barbados, Erica Smith, her organization has also faced a number of challenges in the licensing of ‘party cruises’ particularly with the shift from land-based venues by many promoters to these vessels which are difficult to monitor. “However, we have been engaging in discussions with the various stakeholders and are presently reviewing our tariffs in order to offer one that reflects the various sizes and scope of activities on the multitude of vessels with capacities ranging from 10 to 500 persons, a couple trips a week to a couple a day, background and/or featured music use,” she says. “Also we will endeavor to ensure that we do not discriminate land-based venues compared with sea vessels,” she added.

“Ultimately, it is the value of music to these business ventures which must be recognised and respected. After all, in most cases, no music means no business,” Erica says.

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