Assessments are underway on the Cabo Star at the Port of Port of Spain after it returned to Trinidad on Saturday.
On Wednesday, passengers aboard the vessel were left stranded for some 17 hours after a fire broke out in the engine room. The crew was able to isolate and quash the blaze. There were no casualties. A release from the Port Authority of T&T said the vessel made its way back to Trinidad by 2.15 p.m. on Saturday, August 26. It said the vessel is currently undertaking its inspections, re-certifications and repairs before resuming its operations.
"The Management of the Authority wishes to re-iterate that the service will resume only when the vessel has been certified safe to operate and all users will be advised accordingly," the release said.
Over the weekend, Guardian Media reached out to the CEO of the Trinidad and Tobago Inter-island Transportation Company (TTITC), Vilma Lewis-Cockburn, for an update on the extent of damages and repairs required. However, on Sunday night, she said the assessments were still under way given the vessel only arrived the afternoon prior therefore she was not yet in a position to make such a pronouncement. She reminded that the Cabo Star is a chartered vessel, meaning, "the assessment and its costs are for the owners."
In the meantime, while the vessel is out of service, cargo is being transported on the APT James, the Buccoo Reef and the Galleons Passage ferries with priority given to foodstuff perishable items. However, according to the Tobago Business Chamber head, Martin George, businesses are still being impacted. This is why he called for the fleet to be expanded.
"While there were arrangements to accommodate some of the smaller trucks- the one tonne and one-and-a-half tonne trucks- on the other sailing vessels, the fact of the matter is that any...large cargo or large truck, from a three-tonne upwards, had problems getting to and from Tobago," he told Guardian Media in a voice note yesterday.
"Of course, when you have things like this happen you would have a slowdown. So that's why we've advocated there should be a second cargo vessel, just like the Cabo Star."
He said the Cabo Star functions "very well" and the chamber has no issues with its performance and a second such vessel will strengthen the supply chain.
"All we need is another one. So, therefore, you lessen the wear and tear on each vessel because you could have them running in tandem and then also you always have a backup vehicle when one has to go in dry dock or when one has an emergency, such as this one where you have to take it in for repairs. So therefore, you still have the cargo services running," he said.
"That's just basic common sense and planning. So, I would hope the Minister of Works (and Transport) Mr Rohan Sinanan would take this suggestion on board and we would soon get another vessel just like the Cabo Star servicing the Trinidad/Tobago route."