File photo: The MV Nova Star
File photo: The MV Nova Star

A fancy cruiseferry, equipped with a helicopter landing pad, but with a slower sailing speed than conventional fast ferries, is to be procured by Government from a shipbuilding yard in Singapore to be put into operation on the seabridge.

A government source said that the state is negotiating with Singapore Technologies Marine Ltd (ST Marine) to purchase the vessel, which was built by its subsidiary Singapore Technologies Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd.

Asked to confirm this information, Finance Minister Colm Imbert, who heads the Cabinet sub-committee mandated to search for a vessel for the beleaguered seabridge, told Newsday, “As the PM said, it’s coming from Asia. You know that Asia is a big place. I don’t leak.” The new vessel is reportedly larger than the T&T Spirit and the T&T Express, with more passenger and vehicle capacity.

Earlier in the week Imbert had told Newsday the new vessel would be in TT within the next two months. The vessel is reportedly the sister to the MV Nova Star – a cruiseferry which was also built by ST Shipbuilding and Engineering. The Nova Star, owned by ST Marine, is currently operating on a charter between Algeciras, Spain and Tangier, Morocco. It previously operated for two seasons between Portland, Maine and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, by Nova Star Cruises.

A cruiseferry is defined as a ship that combines the features of a cruise ship with a “Ro-Pax ferry,” which is a conventional ferry with a large garage intake and a relatively large passenger capacity. Of the vessel, the source said, “It is an extremely large ship and is extremely slow.” Unlike the T&T Spirit, which travels at 42 to 46.5 knots an hour and the T&T Express at 38 to 40 knots an hour, the new vessel reportedly travels at about 22 knots an hour.

Another government source who would neither confirm nor deny the origin of the vessel told Newsday, “Even though the vessel may be a tad slower than the fast ferries, it would be ideal and comfortable, not only for local and foreign tourists, but also in marketing Tobago as a tourism destination.”

The Nova Star, which has 163 cabins, accommodates up to 1,215 passengers and has the capacity to carry 336 cars. It also has eating and entertainment facilities and play area for children and a helicopter landing pad.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said in an address to the nation that a vessel had been found and should arrive within weeks from a port in Asia. “We had all the necessary inspection, examination certification checks and sea trial were done on this vessel and after all satisfactory reports were obtained, steps have now been taken to purchase this vessel,” the prime minister said.



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