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Thursday, June 21, 2018
Cubans unable to retrofit Galleons Passage
Finance Minister Colm Imbert in Parliament yesterday. PICTURE OFFICE OF THE PARLIAMENT

Onward to T&T immediately - minus upgrades in Cuba.

That’s the next chapter of the Galleons Passage’s journey after acting Prime Minister Colm yesterday revealed that enhancement work contracted by the ferry’s seller couldn’t be done in Cuba as planned and the vessel is instead now coming straight to T&T.

The enhancement work will be done in T&T on a phased basis while the vessel does the Tobago ferry run “very soon.”

Imbert confirmed developments in Parliament yesterday while replying to Opposition queries on the status of retrofitting work on the vessel in Cuba.

The vessel, which left China in February, had been expected in April, May - then “soon”- as it encountered delays along the way due to weather, US inspections and other issues.

The enhancement work in Cuba was to have been the last aspect before its final port of call here in T&T.

In explaining the latest changes yesterday, Imbert said arrangements for enhancement work had two components - certain upgrade works to be done by the seller, plus upgrades to be done by the National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco) on behalf of Government.

“The seller had work to be done at his expense with his own arrangement on a contracted basis with the Cuban shipyard and Nidco also had work to do on a contracted basis in a separate transaction with the Cuban shipyard,” Imbert said.

“We’ve been informed recently that some of the materials and equipment that the seller requires to complete the enhancement work agreed to in the contract for sale of the vessel to Nidco; some of the materials and equipment, the seller is having difficulty transporting them from Australia to Cuba.”

He added: “Cuba is still an embargoed country for many countries. Cuba accepts shipments from some European states and doesn’t apparently, make it very easy for shipments from countries like Australia.

“The seller told us recently that although fabrication of one of the canopies had begun, they were having difficulty in getting an airline or shipping company to transport some of the remaining equipment and materials into Cuba.

“So Government has taken a decision to bring the vessel to T&T immediately and the work will be done in T&T, the boat will be put into service very soon and the enhancement work will be done on phased basis while the boat is transporting passengers to and from Tobago.”

Based on reports, he said some retrofitting work had been done in Cuba, but insisted the issue involved wasn’t a contractual responsibility of Government. “The seller, as part of the contract for purchase, had agreed to do certain enhancement work at Damen Shipyard in Santiago de Cuba. The works the seller had contracted to have done have been affected by the seller’s inability to get materials and equipment into Cuba - not the Government’s inability to get materials and equipment into Cuba.”

However, he said the enhancements were solely to make the vessel more comfortable.

In March, a Nidco statement advised that retrofitting of the vessel would occur over10 days during the layover in Cuba. This work included a canopy installation on the vehicle deck to protect against sea spray, additional anchor rings for securing vehicles on deck and sealing a gap between the ramp door and vessel hull. Some of the works would be paid for by the seller, as agreed pre-purchase, Nidco added.

Nidco said a decision was made to make other alterations while the vessel was in Cuba and these - costing $2.5m - would be paid for by Government. These involved installation of full canopies over the sun deck, additional washroom facilities, cafe/bar facilities, remodelling of urinals in the men’s washroom and installation of fixing rails for new contoured seating on the passenger deck. These modifications were being undertaken to make the vessel more suitable for its purpose, Nidco said.

In Parliament yesterday, Imbert didn’t say when the boat would leave for T&T, if it’s already on the way or when it would arrive here. He told the T&T Guardian via email afterwards that he’d check Nidco on this.


Works Minister Rohan Sinanan also gave the following information on the other Tobago ferries during yesterday’s Parliament sitting.
• T&T Spirit drydocking cost - US $10.9m
• T&T Express repairs and maintenance cost - US $808,117
• Period T&T Spirit was out of service - May 15, 2017, to April 16, 2018.
• T&T Express was in operation - May 12, 2017, to March 12, 2018.


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