2934143
The newest vessel in the national fleet of ferries, the APT James.

SHALIZA HASSANALI

Chairman of the National Infrastructure Development Company Limited Herbert George says claims by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar that inter-island vessel APT James has deficiencies can only be described as “a mountain out of a molehill.”

He said the minor deficiencies will no way affect the boat’s overall operations.

George was responding to Persad-Bissessar who at a UNC virtual meeting on Monday stated that the new vessel has six deficiencies including missing fire safety equipment.

The $486 million vessel purchased from Australian shipbuilder Austal is expected to arrive on Friday.

Persad-Bissessar said she had a copy of an inspection document from Malta which showed several defects with the boat.

“Defects ranged from lack of proper certification and documents to missing fire safety equipment and a lack of proper structural access points to vital areas of the ship. It was even discovered the electronic charts that assist the navigation of the vessel was outdated and did not conform to top current maritime codes,” Persad-Bissessar said.

The report, Persad-Bissessar said also showed the emergency system muster list was incomplete and fire detection/alarm system was missing.

“The conclusions drawn by the Opposition Leader is incorrect. Basically what I gather her to be saying is that we paid a lot of money for the vessel and it is coming less than complete,” George said.

George said the vessel was not scheduled to stop in Malta during its journey from Vietnam but had to do so for bunkering, resulting in an inspection being conducted.

At the time of the inspection, George said the crew on board could not find a “bomb spray unit and a heat gun,” which were eventually located.

The vessel, he assured, has all its fire safety equipment.

Regarding query by Persad-Bissessar that there was lack of proper structural access points on the ship, George said the crew had not been using the stern ramp but “a movable gangway to exit and enter the vessel from the port side” which should have had a net on the handrails for proper safety.

Responding to claims that the ship has outdated electronic charts, George said the vessel is equipped with an electronic chart display and identification (Ecdis) system which outlines the ship’s route to Trinidad.

“Those charts are modules. What it did not have on them was the port of Malta which was not on the ship’s Ecdis system. The vessel stopped in Malta for fuel. So what they would have used were the paper charts as the primary system to navigate their way into the Malta Port. So when it said it was not updated… it did not have the Malta Port on the system.”

He admitted that the muster list was incomplete “because it did not show substitutes for key persons.”

When the vessel is in full operation, George said a full muster list would be given.

“But because the vessel is being delivered all those layers of staffing were not provided and as such the list that is reflecting what is on the vessel would not have had those substitutes that are normally provided when the vessel is in operation.”

He identified the company retained to deliver the boat as “IMS.”

George said these minor deficiencies would no way interfere with the vessel’s performance.

“So those so-called deficiencies were not structural.”

George said the UNC failed to remember they had purchased a boat under their tenure with over 300 plus defects.

“That boat is still in Trinidad and it is still being used. This one only has six (deficiencies)…so we are not doing too badly.”

George assured taxpayers they will get value for money once the vessel begins to operate on the sea bridge in a few days.