Scrap Iron Dealers Association president Allan Ferguson. FILE PHOTO –
SCRAP Iron Dealers Association Allan Ferguson didn’t mince words on Tuesday when he warned members of the industry that when newly passed legislation regulating the industry is proclaimed by the President, the association will call in the police for any dealer found to be operating illegally and in contravention of the law.
Speaking on Tuesday at Signature Hall, Montrose, Chaguanas, Ferguson said along with government appointed inspectors, the association will have its own team of people who will inspect and monitor the industry to weed out any wrongdoers.
He pointed out that the association will be looking even at international buyers who deal with unlicensed scrap iron dealers and who may have bought stolen scrap metal and copper.
“Some of them are members and we welcome that, but if they cannot uphold the laws of TT, I cannot prop them up,” Ferguson said.
“They want to buy anything, they don’t care if it is manhole cover or pipe – whatever it is, from whatever agency. Thousands were on the breadline because of them (international buyers). When the industry shuts down forever, they can easily go to another country and it is we who have to suffer.
“If you were involved in buying stolen goods (in the past), forget it! If you send containers to operators without licenses, I will send the police to your house personally.”
In August, the industry was shut down completely and a six-month ban on all trade and export of scrap iron was imposed by Government.
The ban came after hundreds of incidents of theft of metal including manhole covers, copper wire from TSTT overhead lines, brass fittings on plumbing belonging to WASA, and even a church bell was stolen.
The 2022 Scrap Metal Bill was passed in December, after consultations with the association, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and the Office of the Attorney General.
Ferguson called for all members of the industry to make a change in their operations in order to comply with the law.
He called on the public not to aid in illegality by dealing with unprofessional scrap workers and unregistered scrap iron dealers, as to do so would not only run contrary to regulations but also put the entire industry at risk of being shutdown again.
He said the public must ensure business is done only with dealers who have registration stickers on their vehicles or other legitimate documents showing they are licensed and registered.
Ferguson also advised that the public turn away any scrap iron dealer, truck driver or operator who is not professionally dressed or conducting themselves in a professional manner.
It is left to be seen if President Paula-Mae Weekes proclaims the 2022 Scrap Iron Act before she demits office or of this would be done by her successor.
Ferguson said he had it on good authority that the Act would be proclaimed by next Tuesday, but added that new licenses would not be issued to dealers and operators until April. Newsday reached out to the Attorney General’s office to confirm this, but attempts were unsuccessful.
Ferguson said that in the meantime, operators who have licenses for 2022-2023, will get an extension to the period for which their licenses remains valid – which is until April, when new licenses are expected to be issued.
Ferguson said the stickers which would allow drivers to operate would be available within the next two days, in areas such as Point Fortin, Arima and Claxton Bay. Other areas would be announced by the association.
Vice president Eross Seejattan said all information on the new regulations and practices would be shared among stakeholders, with upstream stakeholders being informed directly by Government while the association will disseminated information to its members.
He called on government to ensure the act is enforced once proclaimed, saying that laws were always in place for the proper regulation of the industry, but enforcement was an issue. This he said was precipitated by all of the association’s advice to successive governments being roundly ignored.
“Had the laws been enforced, had police officers come into the yard the same way they would go into a bar and check the bar owner’s books, we wouldn’t even have half of the problems,” Seejattan said.
“Legislation is not a problem, it is enforcement that is the problem.”
“For ten years we have been speaking to governments to get them to enforce the laws and regulate the industry.
“We had meetings with the EMA (Environmental Management Authority) and our members, but this is Trinidad and Tobago…unless there is a crisis, no one comes forward and no one acts. There is only so much that we can do because we don’t have any teeth to carry out enforcement,” Seejattan said.