The transport bridge linking Trinidad and Tobago broke down last Saturday due to a power failure which halted the arrival of the inter-island ferry and aircraft, Tobago Development Minister Vernella Alleyne-Toppin confirmed yesterday. "The bridge between the two islands was well and truly severed because the T&T Express ferry which arrived on Saturday night could not dock and discharge its passenger and cargo loads, and the planes could not land at Crown Point International airport," Alleyne-Toppin said. Alleyne-Toppin (also Tobago East MP) explained that the power outage which occurred in Tobago affected the electricity supply to the Scarborough port.
As a result of lack of electricity on the port, she said the landing ramp for the inter-island ferry–which arrived around 6.30 pm– could not be lowered. The ramp operates via ship-to-shore electricity supply from the port. Alleyne-Toppin said electricity to the port was down when the vessel began to dock. Port officials said they tried getting passengers off through a "porthole arrangement" to the pier beneath. But this was cancelled in favour of using a pedestrian ramp which the vessel carries. However, passengers with vehicles had to remain on the boat until around 8.15 pm when electricity supply kicked in, she added. Alleyne-Toppin said the port's generator was not installed. She continued to monitor the situation yesterday since she said there was a cruise ship in port.
Where the Crown Point Airport was concerned, Alleyne-Toppin said the electricity outage halted the landing of aircraft since the runway lights could not come on. She said the airport was closed from 6.05 pm and reopened around 6.45 pm operating on emergency light. But although the airport's emergency solar-powered system came into action, it could not facilitate getting all the runway lights to come on, she added. Noting that the runway's circular field lights need to be repaired, Alleyne-Toppin said: "On Saturday, the lights went down on the southern side and only edge lights from the beginning of the runway were able to work, up to 4,500 feet and then, every other light was working." When the outage occurred, a CA Dash-8 which was on the ground ready for take-off, departed for Trinidad.
However, CA's flight 1554 which was due to leave Trinidad for Tobago, remained in Trinidad, she added. No international flights were scheduled to arrive in Tobago on Saturday. Alleyne-Toppin said work was being done on the runway lights up to yesterday to ensure they worked since CA's inaugural flight from Tobago to New York was due to arrive at Crown Point last night. Alleyne-Toppin said fellow Tobago MP Dr Delmond Baker was among those affected on Saturday since he was waiting at Piarco on a flight to Tobago. "We've been having many more power outages since the construction of the Cove industrial project," she said.
Alleyne-Toppin said last Saturday's situation had grave implications for Tobago. "It is critical that we have an efficient lighting system at the airport since this has implications for conventions such as meeting FAA regulations. "Tobago is a tourism economy so when planes have to turn back it affects our market where bookings, ground transport arrangements and other affiliated matters are concerned in a domino effect. "We need to ensure free flowing systems are in place since we have patients coming to Trinidad by air. "Our port generators must also have an automatic switch-over power system when emergencies arise."
Works and Transport Minister Jack Warner said yesterday that he had tried to prevent emergency situations like last Saturday's episode at Crowne Point Airport when he had awarded the contract for runway lights. Warner had come under flack a few months ago for awarding the contract to fix the Crowne Point Airport lighting system in the absence of an Airport Authority Board. He was later instructed by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to pull back the award and did so. Commenting on last Saturday's situation with the airport lights, Warner said yesterday: "I tried my best to avert such a situation like what happened on Saturday, but I was not given the support I had expected. "But I will continue to try to make the efforts to perform to the best of my ability until such time as otherwise obtains," he added. Warner said he was monitoring the Tobago issues where his ministry was concerned.