We’re holding PATT to its word

We’re holding PATT to its word

The Tobago chapter of the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce says it is holding the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (PATT) to its word that by September 18, the MV Cabo Star cargo ferry would be back up and running.

The boat has been out of service for the past three weeks.

The chamber said yesterday that if by that date the vessel is still down, “then you will see no sleep from the business community”.

At a news conference in Tobago yesterday, chamber vice-chairman Demi John Cruickshank called for an urgent meeting next week with Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan and officials of the National Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (Nidco) to discuss the possibility of a new cargo ferry for Tobago and the way forward for the interisland seabridge.

He said the chamber planned to write to Sinanan to request the meeting, and to also pen a letter to Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Farley Augustine to ask for the THA’s input on the matter.

The 35-year-old Cabo Star, the lone ferry to transport strictly cargo between the islands, is currently undergoing repairs following a fire in its engine room on August 23.

Cruickshank reported yesterday that the Cabo Star’s temporary replacement, the MV Emprendedora, successfully sailed into Tobago around 1 a.m. yesterday after leaving Trinidad at 3 p.m.

He said apart from a “slight hiccup” associated with the high tide, there were no significant problems unloading the trailers, trucks, flatbeds and containers from the vessel.

He said the majority of cargo on the vessel was construction material while a few containers comprised animal feed.

Cruickshank said the Emprendedora then departed Tobago at 6.40 a.m. yesterday with five vans, six trucks, five trucks/trailers, five 20-foot flatbeds, two 40-foot flatbeds and six 20-foot containers.

He said acting CEO of the Trinidad and Tobago Inter-Island Transportation Company Vilma Lewis-­Cockburn assured him yesterday that because of the backlog of cargo on the Port of Port of Spain, the Emprendedora would immediately return to Tobago when it arrived in Trinidad.

“So it will reach back in Tobago around 1 a.m or 2 a.m. (today),” Cruickshank said.

“We’re trying to bring as much construction material as possible. We have a severe shortage of cement on the island. We have a shortage of sand, steel and concrete and hollow clay blocks. We are trying to see if we can move as much of those cargoes over to Tobago as possible, and within the next couple of days, we should see some ease in terms of the shortage of materials,” he said.

Cruickshank added: “I am ma­king it categorically clear that we are holding the PATT to their word that the Cabo Star returns to service on Monday, September 18, for the latest.”

“I hope that there are no delays, in terms of getting the vessel back into the water and into service because we cannot be leaving our beds 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. until 5 a.m. to open businesses. We did that in 2017 (when both the passenger and cargo ferries were down at the same time), and it is not something we are going to continue in the future.”

At a news conference last Thursday, PATT chairman retired colonel Lyle Alexander said repairs to the Cabo Star should be completed by September 18, and once certified safe, it will resume operations.

Urgency required 

Cruickshank said that with a number of holidays and activities approaching, including October Car­nival, it was imperative for the seabridge challenges to be addressed.

“If those activities clash with the shortage of goods and foodstuff on the island, we will have problems because we don’t want our guests coming and having problems to get simple things like water,” he said.

He said the Cabo Star had been working “tremendously well” over the past six years, however, it was an old vessel.

He said it was now time to “go back to the drawing board” to procure a new cargo ferry.

He acknowledged that this was not as easy as buying a foreign used vehicle, as people thought.

“We were lucky in this short space of time to get the Emprendedora here because, really and truly, if you had to get a vessel coming out of Europe, which is a roll-on roll-off vessel, that would take about four weeks to get to T&T, and that’s ho­ping that there is a vessel free to get to T&T,” he added.

Tobago Chamber chairman Curtis Williams earlier thanked PATT for allowing the MV Galleons Passage to be used exclusively for cargo over the past three weeks, in the absence of the Cabo Star.

He said the chamber was also grateful to Bridgemans Services Group, owners of the Cabo Star, for sourcing the Emprendedora to assist the construction sector.

The Galleons Passage will be undergoing urgent maintenance works from today until next Tuesday, and therefore has been removed from service.

Read More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.