?Government has agreed to spend nearly $400 million purchasing four high-speed passenger catamaran to serve as water taxis between north and south Trinidad, according to wire service reports.
The Australian shipbuilder, Austal, won the order to design and construct the four 41-metre ferries which was worth 75 million Australian dollars. At yesterday's exchange rate of 1 Aussie dollar to TT$5.32, the contract is worth $399 million, which works out to be about $100 million per water taxi.
The Australian-built water taxis, which are scheduled to be delivered in late 2010, will be designed to carry 405 passengers at a speed of approximately 42 miles per hour.
The contract includes a maintenance and training package which will see Austal deliver crew familiarisation and planned maintenance management.
The vessels will be owned by the National Infrastructure Development Company Limited (Nidco)–a government statutory authority–and operated by external consultants. The international tender process undertaken by Nidco called for proven vessels that could be customised to best meet the proposed service and be delivered within 12 months of contract effective, according to the website Marine Log.
According to the website, passenger seating onboard each vessel is split over two levels, with the main passenger deck featuring four passenger entry points, a central kiosk and dedicated baggage compartment and bike racks.
"As well as performing a water taxi service, the ferries will provide emergency backup for the existing inter-island service between Trinidad and Tobago. To meet this secondary function, Austal configured all four vessels with the capability to retrofit a forward mounted T-foil ride control system at short notice, allowing the vessels to operate in open, unprotected seas."
Austal is currently building six fast patrol craft for the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard, due for delivery in early 2010.
The water taxi service between San Fernando and Port-of-Spain was launched in December 2008 and now operates with four vessels–three of which have a capacity of 150 passengers each. The water taxis are intended to reduce road congestion in Trinidad and in May, Works and Transport Minister Colm Imbert said 10,000 people will be facilitated daily when the water taxi service begins to operate at its full complement of eight.