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New ferry still docked in China
The passenger ferry, the Galleons Passage, which was expected to set sail to T&T last Friday is still docked in China as delivery of the new Catamaran is being finalised with the National Infrastructure Development Company (NIDCO).
On February 5, Finance Minister Colm Imbert posted on his Twitter account that delivery date of the Galleons Passage “is now set for Wednesday, February 7th, 2018,” and that the vessel “is scheduled to set sail for Trinidad and Tobago on February 9th, 2018.”
On February 8, he again posted on Twitter “It’s official. The Galleons Passage, our new RoPax Ferry, was today registered in the name of the National Infrastructure Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago. An experienced crew is currently being mobilised in Guandong, China to sail the vessel to Port-of-Spain.”
But yesterday a check on the shipping website vessel finder indicated that the Galleons Passage was still berthed in China.
NIDCO’s communications officer Nassir Mohammed responding to queries from the T&T Guardian said he had been informed by the company’s president that “delivery is being finalised now and a delivery date will be given subsequently.”
The Government had estimated that the vessel, which cost US$17.4m, would have been in local waters by April 10. It is costing the State an additional US$800,000 to sail the vessel to T&T.
Industry sources told the T&T Guardian that if the ferry is still in China this country will incur daily docking and berthing fees unless a special arrangement has been made. Industry insiders say the cost could increase because of the delay since it involves berthing, a daily cost of the crew, fuel and other costs.
Weather conditions are also a factor in the arrival of the vessel. Cyclone conditions at this time of the year are also reported to be dangerous for vessels like the Galleons Passage in open seas, maritime experts said. Imbert was at a Cabinet retreat yesterday and could not be reached.
His last post on the vessel was dated February 10, when he posted several images of the vessel’s interior and exterior.
Stakeholders in Tobago are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the vessel to bring an end to the current crisis on the seabridge as there is no ferry service operating since Carnival Friday.
The problems of a reliable ferry service began on April 22, 2017 after the departure of the Superfast Galicia.
Over the Carnival weekend, the island was without a passenger ferry after the lone passenger ferry, the T&T Express, was taken out of service last week, having failed to get a renewal of its class certificate from the international certification body DNV.
Last December, the Port Authority, under the chairmanship of Alison Lewis, got an extension of temporary class certificates and was given a list of work to be done on the vessel before the extension expired at midnight on February 7.
However, the majority of the work recommended was not done resulting in the non-issuance of a further extension.
The Port says that the T&T Express should return to the seabridge by the weekend. A second passenger ferry, the T&T Spirit, has been on dry dock undergoing repairs since June 2017.
No date has been given when that vessel is expected back in service.
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