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Cabo Star engineer sent packing

Published: 
Monday, October 23, 2017
Vice president of Bridgemans Services Group Andrew Purdey

An Estonian engineer on the inter-island cargo vessel Cabo Star has been "removed" from the ship and sent home after complaining about safety issues on the vessel.

The T&T Guardian understands that Edurak Lasuk, who came with the vessel when it arrived in Trinidad in July, complained in a letter to Port officials about concerns which he had with the Cabo Star including issues which he thought posed a risk to those using the vessel.

But Vice President of Bridgemans Services Group Andrew Purdey in response to queries said that Lasuk was "a disgruntled employee," who had "baseless concerns."

Responding to emailed questions, Purdey said "we had the union and our ship managers attend the vessel and understand his concerns. The concerns are baseless and he has been removed from the ship."

Asked how Lasuk’s departure had affected maintenance of the Cabo Star, Purdey said operations “remain as always operating fully within class and all port safety requirements.”

Last weekend the Cabo Star was delayed in its normal sailing schedule because the starboard engine failed. Purdey assured "all issues," had been "resolved."

He said preventative maintenance spares which were required had been “held up at Customs. All spares are now in our control and maintenance is in hand.”

As a result, he said, “the Cabo Star remains ready and durable for ongoing service.”

But truckers told the T&T Guardian that the vessel had slowed down considerably.

One trucker, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the vessel is now travelling at 13 knots.

“We believe that there are engine problems and they don’t want anything to happen to the vessel. So they have slowed it down considerably.”

The T&T Guardian understands that there is a request that the sailing time of the vessel be brought up to midday, from the current departure time of 2 pm from Port-of-Spain. This is being resisted by truckers who said the proposed change in time will affect their trade.

Stakeholders in the Tobago business community also lodged their concerns about the proposed change in sailing time. They said the earlier sailing will not allow the truckers enough time to offload and get goods back on the vessel in time for the return sailing.

The issue of the change in departure time is expected to be discussed in detail at a meeting which has been called by the Port Authority with stakeholders this week.

Truckers also complained that there is limited cabin space on the Cabo Star. They say there are about six bunks in each cabin and some truckers are still sleeping on the ground.

Asked whether there are any plans to improve the cabin capacity of the Cabo Star, Purdey said that was up to officials of the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (PATT).

He said “currently all cabins are available to the PATT which operates this phase of the service. It will be their determination which cabins are delivered for service. Going forward we are working to increase passenger capacity but this is a few months out.”

The vessel has a one-year contract which costs taxpayers US$22,500 a day.

Purdey said he is hoping “to make the Cabo Star a long-term fixture in this route and anything we can do to improve service will be considered to secure future contracts.”

Meantime, Purdey confirmed that the Ocean Flower 2, the passenger ferry which has put in a bid for the passenger service on the seabridge is off drydock.

“I am considering inviting the media for a tour at a mutually acceptable date,” he said.

The Port Authority also confirmed that the evaluation of tenders for a passenger ferry for the seabridge has begun. Tenders closed in September but the evaluation of the bids only started last week.

Asked about the composition of the tenders committee the Port confirmed that evaluation had started but in an emailed response stated it could not provide any information on the committee.

Well-placed sources told the T&T Guardian that the Port had sought the assistance of the Coast Guard in evaluating the tenders.

The T&T Guardian understands that Tobago stakeholders decided against sitting on the evaluation committee following a request from Port Chairman Alison Lewis.