The new ferry to service the sea bridge will be in Trinidad and Tobago within the next two months says Finance Minister Colm Imbert.
“The vessel that has been identified is brand new” and “if it is brand new, we would be the first user,” he told Newsday yesterday.
He can debunk any allegation about the age of the vessel, he said, in response to Tobago House of Assembly Minority Leader Watson Duke who yesterday told the media in Tobago that the boat spoken about by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley “is not a new boat.”
Claiming that “We” know the boat, its age, its capacity, and its problems, Duke did not disclose the information when asked except to say, “I have facts which I will reveal in time.” He advised the Prime Minister not to “bring that boat. Do not buy cat in bag.”
Duke said he thought Government was supposed to have a boat built according to certain specifications based on local needs.
“He has forced himself into a situation where they are buying a boat and calling it new.”
Asked about the cost of the vessel, the manufacturers and country of origin of the vessel, Imbert told Newsday, “Not yet, but soon.”
Earlier in the day on CNC 3’s Morning Brew programme, Imbert was asked about the exclusion of the Port Authority of TT (PATT) in the acquisition of the vessel to which he said, “I don’t want to speak about anybody else.”
He said Rowley knew of his involvement in the acquisition of the ferries, T&T Spirit and the T&T Express, and gave him the assignment. “He had confidence in me and we have got a boat.”
In his address to the nation on Sunday, Rowley said a vessel was found in Asia.
At the end of November last year, Rowley appointed a ministerial sub-committee of Cabinet headed by Imbert to search for a ferry for the Tobago sea bridge after the PATT’s tender process failed.
Asked why continue with the services of the board of PATT when successive boards failed to find a vessel and the sub-committee was able to do so in a short space of time, Imbert said, “I was given an assignment to find a boat. We found a boat. I am not looking backward, I am looking forward.”
He reiterated, “The boat has not arrived yet. I am just saying we found a vessel. It was subject to intense scrutiny, testing. It seems to be okay. It will be here within the next two months. It is a brand new vessel.” Meanwhile, former transport minister Devant Maharaj told Newsday that the procurement of the Asian vessel was questionable given the time-frame within which it was procured and the time that the ministerial sub-committee was set up.