Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan says with the arrival of the fast ferry, the APT James, this country’s sea bridge woes have come to an end.
Sinanan was speaking to the media at the cruise ship complex in Port-of-Spain yesterday, shortly after the vessel docked in Trinidad for the first time.
The fast ferry, named for Tobagonian politician Alphonso Philbert Theophilus James, can carry 926 passengers and 250 cars. It is the first of two ordered by the Government from the Australian shipping company, Austal.
The second, the Buccoo Reef has already been handed over and is expected to set sail from Vietnam by mid-January. It is expected to take about a month to get to T&T.
Yesterday Sinanan said the A.P.T James, which cost US$73m, can cut down the travel time between the islands. It is expected to be put into service at the end of January, as Sinanan said its crew needs to be quarantined before the vessel can be used.
“The vessel can do the trip within two and a half hours but that depends on the sea, sometimes we do have some challenging waters between Trinidad and Tobago and you want to ensure that you have a very comfortable ride for the commuters,” he said.
Sinanan said the addition of the APT James and the Buccoo Reef means this country now owns four vessels.
But he said this does not mean that all four will be put into operation at the same time.
“You do have to recognise that these vessels cost a lot of money to keep in operations so we have taken a decision that once there is a demand for the seating, we will have the capacity but if there is no demand we will actually have two vessels operating.”
He said the vessel will be manned and maintained by the crew that brought it from Vietnam. Sinanan was confident that a contract with Austal for the maintenance of all four vessels will mean an end to the sea bridge woes.
“We do have a management contract for this vessel and also Buccoo Reef and the Galleons Passage so we are hoping that the maintenance issues that we had, that we were plagued with is something of the past.”
Sinanan said the arrival of the fast ferry in the run-up to the Tobago House of Assembly election was a mere coincidence as the vessel was ordered in 2018.