The months-long search for a vessel to service the sea bridge starts all over again as Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced yesterday that he has mandated the the National Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (NIDCO) to help acquire a roll-on/roll-off passenger fast ferry for the inter-island route.
This comes following the recent failed tender process where the Port Authority board could give no recommendation on a worthy vessel for government’s consideration. Speaking at the sod-turning ceremony for a 20-megawatt upgrade project at the Cove Power Station in Lowlands, Tobago Rowley said he was left disappointed when he learnt the board could make no recommendation.
“I thought that out of 13 vessels will come one, and I did indicate to the minister and his subordinates that as soon as the port process is complete, as soon as the process and the board took a position to say that we have selected a vessel to recommend to the Ministry of Works, I would call the Cabinet in an emergency session, whatever day of the week, so Cabinet will look at it and approve what the board has recommended.
“Then I was told by the Ministry of Works that the port has reported that the process has failed and they have not been able to recommend any of the vessels that have been in the process,” Rowley said.
He said that as a result, he had to put other measures in place for ensuring the Christmas and Carnival seasons did not meet Tobago without this very valuable piece of infrastructure.
“I appointed a sub-committee of Cabinet which includes the Minister of Public Utilities, the Minister of Finance, the Minister in the office of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Tourism, to go through another process. (It is) quite acceptable using Nidco, a state enterprise, the same one that had bought the Express, the Spirit and the water taxis, to use that process under the watchful eye of the Cabinet sub-committee, and go to international brokers and find a vessel which meets our needs. The Cabinet will ensure this process comes to a satisfactory completion and there is a boat here at the earliest opportunity,” he said.
He also spoke about the Sandals project, which he said remains a priority.
“That project is still with us and we will continue towards working to ensure that it is a reality. For the umpteenth time, we’ve chosen the Sandals group because we want what the Sandals group has to offer and I know of no other brand in the region which has the similar offerings, not the least of which is the ability in marketing the resort to lift significantly the air transport into Tobago to meet the adequate number of rooms and the quality of offerings from all the rooms in Tobago at Sandals and everywhere else.