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T&T Express still to be cleared to sail

Published: 
Saturday, February 17, 2018

The T&T Express has received four of the five class certificates required to resume operations on the seabridge.

Inspections were being done yesterday to determine whether the vessel is up to par for passenger safety but up to presstime there was no confirmation on whether sailing could resume this weekend.

A statement from the Port said yesterday surveys carried out on the T&T Express have been completed and the Authority is awaiting the results from DNV. It added that all operations “will be certified” and the vessel will be returned service by 2 pm today. Another statement is expected at 10 am today on the issue.

However, Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan said in Parliament yesterday that T&T Express is expected to be back on the Tobago ferry service today.

Replying to queries from UNC MP Roodal Moonilal, the Minister said the Port Authority spent $500,000 to fly ferry passengers via CAL to Tobago recently when the vessel was out of service due to rough seas bulletin as well as the fact the vessel’s class certification was under review.

He said passengers with confirmed bookings were flown to Tobago in the interest of the tourism industry.

Sinanan said it was actually cheaper to fly them over since the cost of vessel’s fuel surpasses the cost of the tickets.

“The Port was saved by the airbridge,” he said.

The passenger ferry was taken out of service last week after it failed to get the renewal of its class certificate by international certification body DNV.

Last December, the Port Authority of T&T (PATT) got an extension of its temporary class certificates and a list of work to be done before the extension expired at midnight on February 7. However, the majority of the work was not done and there was concern that passengers’ lives would be at risk, so a further extension was denied.

PATT sources said over the past few days some of the issues identified were addressed. Once the class certificates are issued and the maritime director gives the all clear the vessel will return to service.

Stakeholders in Tobago complained that they have not been hearing from the PATT about the status of any of the vessels on the seabridge.

Tobago Chamber chairman Demi John Cruickshank said: “With Easter coming shortly we need a serious statement about the date of the return of the T&T Spirit and we need to know what is happening with the T&T Express and what is the date the Galleons Passage will arrive.”

Cruickshank was critical of the PATT, saying it had “caused a whole island’s economy to go into a tailspin because of the inefficiencies. Somebody needs to answer why after a whole year the economy of Tobago has collapsed because of one agency in Trinidad.”

He added: “Domestic tourism has collapsed because of the Port inefficiency.” CAL provided 156 flights and 11,640 seats for ferry passengers.

Cruickshank said CAL “jumping in at the last minute” had saved the day. “I don’t think any other airline would have done what CAL did at such short notice,” he said.

The Galleons Passage, the US$17.4 million vessel purchased for the seabridge, is still docked in China awaiting permits for its trans-Pacific ocean voyage to T&T, Finance Minister said via his Twitter account this week. It will cost taxpayers an additional US$800,000 to sail the vessel to T&T.

Imbert sought to allay concerns that further work is required before the Galleons Passage sails.

“The vessel is in good and serviceable condition, with all equipment, machinery and engines fully functional,” he said and reiterated that its departure was delayed by the Chinese New Year celebrations. The Galleons Passage was originally commissioned by the Venezuelan Government and Gran Cacique in Venezuela for use on the Puerto La Cruz to Punta de Piedras route in Margarita, in sheltered waters.

Imbert has never named the broker which sourced the vessel but checks indicate that the Catamaran is on the site of International Broking Services (IBS), the same broker from which the water taxis HC Katia, HC Milancia and HC Olivia were purchased.

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