Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan gives a thumbs up as the Buccoo Reef docks at the Cruise Ship Complex, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.

With two new passenger vessels now ready to service the sea bridge, Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan says the Government will now seek to acquire a cargo vessel.

Speaking to the media after the arrival of the Buccoo Reef fast ferry at the Cruise Ship Complex yesterday, Sinanan said the Government has fulfilled its 2017 promise to acquire two new fast ferries to service the sea bridge.

The 1,000-passenger vessel was built by Australian shipping company Incat at a cost of US$72.9 million.

It was the second vessel delivered to T&T this year, with the other being in January – the APT James, a fast ferry built by Australian firm Austal at a cost of US$73 million.

Yesterday, Sinanan said the Government only needs one more vessel built for T&T’s specific needs.

“We have to go out for a tender for that, so we have not started that process. We have the approvals from the Cabinet and NIDCO has been instructed to start the process of the acquisition of a new cargo vessel but it must be something that is designed to suit our requirements,” Sinanan said.

He said despite the restraints of the COVID-19 pandemic, the arrival of the Buccoo Reef is a light at the end of the tunnel.

“This started a long time ago when the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago and the Prime Minister of Australia came together and were able to actually make today possible. I want to compliment everyone who played a hand in getting these two vessels to us safely.”

Sinanan said the vessel’s crew would be tested onboard yesterday and then kept in quarantine for the next two weeks. He said the vessel would then be sanitised and it is expected to be put into service in about a month.

He said the Buccoo Reef is one of the most modern passenger ferries to be produced in the world.

National Infrastructure Development Company Limited (NIDCO) chairman Herbert George was also present for the vessel’s arrival.

He said he is still awaiting a report into issues the vessel experienced in January when it left the Incat shipping yard for the first time.

At that time, the vessel’s engine was overheating.

Yesterday, George said the overheating was diagnosed and damaged parts were replaced at Incat. He said although the incident was unfortunate, it gave him some insight into how the company treats with its warranty obligations.

He sought to assure the population that the Buccoo Reef will not be left to fall into disrepair.

George said the vessel is under a one-year warranty, which took effect in January when it was handed over to the Government.

“Even after that year is over, it will still be under warranty so we have made the arrangements to ensure it is well maintained and that we will do, so we will not have it here, huge as it is, like another white elephant and it will be available to serve the route as was originally intended.”

George said the vessel will take approximately the same time as the APT James to get to Tobago which is roughly three hours.