The newest addition to the inter-island ferry service, the Buccoo Reef, took its maiden voyage yesterday.
The 112m-long catamaran will now replace the T&T Spirit which is scheduled to go on drydock from today.
Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Ancil Dennis and chairman the Port Authority Lyle Alexander toured the vessel which can hold 1,000 passengers, including 224 VIP seats, as well as 239 vehicles and can travel at up to 45.3 knots.
Chairman of the Port Authority Lyle Alexander said with the new service agreement he anticipates that the new fast ferries will serve the country for at least twenty years.
“What we are doing this time around is that we have put systems in place to ensure that the manufactures of the vessels are the ones who service them so that the maintenance problems we used to have before will be a thing of the past.”
According to Alexander, the Buccoo Reef is going to make a significant impact on the sailing schedule and the movement of persons between Trinidad and Tobago.
Dennis said the two fast ferries are just one of the many indicators which show that Tobago’s development is “high on the Central Government’s agenda.”
He referred to the on-going discussions on the Tobago Autonomy Bill and the ANR Robinson Airport Expansion project as two other areas where the government has made major investments to develop the island.
He said, “I want to use this opportunity to call on Tobagonians to use this period to prepare yourselves for when opportunities become available, you must ensure that you can benefit from these opportunities.”
Port Commissioner on the Port Authority Board of Directors and Tobago businessman Tommy Elias said while a fully functional inter-island ferry service would benefit the island by bringing more persons to Tobago, it also opens up the possibilities for Tobagonians in search of better prices
“It’s just for us to be able to seize the opportunity and present a fair deal to customers and patrons and make sure we as businessmen operate above board with all our transactions, keeping in mind that Trinidad is just three hours away by ferry it doesn’t stop anyone from going down there to shop,” he said.
A small group of passengers who made this morning’s sailing all gave the vessel good reviews, one of these passengers, Nigel Williams, said he felt the vessel was well equipped to handle rough waters.
“Smooth sailing normally when you take the rest of boats you get upset and want to vomit it was all smooth sailing and fast,” one said.
Another passenger, Devon Dhanraj, also gave the vessel rave reviews.
He said, “I think the sailing was fantastic despite the inclement weather the boat was clean, up to mark and I think its going to do great moving persons between Trinidad and Tobago.”
The Buccoo Reef will now compliment the APT James on the inter-island route.
Both vessels were built by Australian shipbuilders Incat and Austal.
The Buccoo Reef which is faster and has more passenger capacity costs a little more that its sister vessel the APT James which came in at a cost 72.9 million, the Buccoo Reef cost $73.5 million.
Sailings will begin from Monday to Friday at 8 am from the Port of Port-of-Spain and 4 pm from the Scarborough Port.