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Tobago stakeholders want more details on new ferry

Published: 
Saturday, January 20, 2018

Stakeholders in Tobago say they want more answers on the ferry which the Government has purchased for the seabridge and which the Finance Minister Colm Imbert says will be here in April to add to the fleet which now exists.

President of the Tobago Chamber Demi John Cruickshank told the T&T Guardian that “while we are happy we getting another vessel, we have to make sure that the vessel is suitable. We need the specs and details about the vessel, so then we can comment properly.”

Imbert told the media at the post-Cabinet news conference on Thursday that the vessel will take just over four hours on the trip between Trinidad and Tobago. Cruickshank said the current “so-called fast ferries take four and a half hours. But we not sure if what we getting is a fast Catamaran.”

He is looking forward to getting answers to technical questions on the boat relating to “what it can do, how many knots it running at, we hoping that all these things can be answered.”

The ferry it seems was bought with the construction of a Port from Toco to Tobago in mind. Imbert said the trip would be one hour between the Port of Toco and the Port of Scarborough.

Cruickshank said “we would have to do the feasibility as to how effective it is to take that route.”

Some of the issues which will need to be addressed, he said, would be “the infrastructure, security, the traffic and time it will take to get from Port-of-Spain to Toco and the question of whether Government will be able to reassign government offices to the eastern end of the island.”

During an interview on Power 102FM yesterday Imbert said the government is “moving full speed ahead” with the Toco Ferry Port.

He said in the Prime Minister’s address to the nation “he made it very clear that upgrading the road to Toco is among the highest priorities of the Government.”

He estimated that “if everything goes according to plan we will have a ferry service between Toco and Tobago in three years.”

Meantime, former Transport Minister Devant Maharaj wrote another letter to the Chairman of the Integrity Commission Justice Melville Baird yesterday seeking answers again on the procurement of the process used by NIDCO to purchase the new inter-island ferry.

Maharaj said there is no clarity on how the Ministerial Committee, headed by Imbert, “identified an appropriate vessel” as the Minister described the discovery of the vessel as “happen-stance.”

Imbert said on Thursday that maritime experts from Hong Kong and Australia as well as UTT were used in the process, but Maharaj said there was no clarity on the process used to select those experts.

In addition, he said, the Government needs to clear the air on “who exactly are they paying for the vessel given that the vessel is owned by Sea Transport Corporation of Australia and was built at the Nansha Shipyard in Guangzhou, China for a ferry operator in Venezuela.”

It is critical, he said, that the Commission conducts its investigation before the purchase of the ferry is finalised or that it advises the Government to delay the purchase pending the outcome of the investigation by the Commission.

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