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Expect slow ‘Passage’ to Tobago

Published: 
Monday, July 23, 2018
Maritime lawyer on new ferry:

Slow “Passage” to Tobago.

Expect the “Galleon’s Passage” to take bout six hours to reach Tobago since it isn’t a fast ferry and lacks the speed of the T&T Spirit and Express fast ferries which can do the trip in half that time, says maritime industry attorney Nyree Alfonso.

Alfonso spoke at a media briefing at her Port-of-Spain office yesterday.

Also speaking were UNC Senator Saddam Hosein, sacked Port Authority (PATT) CEO Charmaine Lewis and UNC activist Devant Maharaj.

On whether Alfonso had moral authority to speak on the issue, she defended her involvement with the PATT under the past PP administration concerning acquisition of the “Super Galicia” which wasn’t retained by the current PNM administration who criticised her role with that vessel.

She noted that the “Passage” is a smaller vessel of 74 metres compared to the other two fast ferries (each of 90-191 metres) and can only sail at about 22 knots unlike their 35 knots.

“It wasn’t designed for water around T&T which is rougher than the sheltered water around Venezuela for which it was designed. It may not be bad, but it’s unsuitable for T&T’s Tobago ferry service,” Alfonso said, noting the vessel took very long to arrive last week, negotiating seas around T&T .

“The vessel and the other two fast ferries are all catamarans, but they’re specifically fast ferries and this isn’t. It’s not designed to handle the big waves in the 90 mile trip to Tobago. It may also be a rough ride as it isn’t the same size as the other ferries. But you may not have much passenger vomiting as it can’t go very fast,” she added.

She said it was about the size of the water taxis which are also unsuitable for the Tobago ferry run, as demonstrated by the March fire when the Trini Flash water taxi did the ferry service.

Alfonso reiterated Government expert Courtney Lange’s concern that sea water, during sailing, would enter one of the two ramps the vessel has and it should be sealed.

Lewis said the ministerial team’s procurement process - minus maritime experts - was “unprecedented” since the PATT used sole select, selective and open tenders.

On claims that the PATT failed “seven times” to get a vessel, she said five were concerned cargo vessels - although the PATT obtained the “Galicia” - and only two were passenger vessels. She was advised by Alfonso against answering certain queries.

Maharaj called on Procurement Regulator Moonilal Lalchan to say what is the best practice for ferry acquisitions since Government is seeking three more ferries from Australia.

Hosein said Government has failed to explain what work was done on the vessel in Cuba, what work will be done on it in T&T and who’s doing the work.

He noted that Works Minister Rohan Sinanan and Nidco gave conflicting statements on when the vessel would begin working— Sinanan saying two weeks and Nidco saying it would take however long it wanted.

Hosein added that last week’s Nidco briefing on the Lloyd’s Register gap didn’t give assurance on several areas cited including issues concerning the vessel’ s 18 bulkheads and safety issues with these, rescue equipment and life jackets.

He noted that Nidco spoke on the LLoyd’s report only after the Opposition raised concerns on matters Lloyd’s cited.

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