THE seabridge has once again collapsed, leaving hundreds of passengers between Trinidad and Tobago in a quandary. The lone ferry, the TT Express, made its last sailing on Monday before it was placed on drydock for repairs. This left passengers in limbo.
However, Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan said yesterday that everyone booked to sail to Tobago on the TT Express would be accommodated on Caribbean Airlines (CAL) until the seabridge is operational. The TT Spirit has been out of commission for repairs, but was expected to be back in service by next week, the minister said.
It has been out of commission because of the extent of repairs required because it missed drydocking a couple of times, Sinanan said. “We had gotten the classification that the Express would not be in service. We are expecting the Spirit to be back on shortly. They are doing their sea trials now and once things go well early next week we should have the Spirit soon,” he told Newsday.
Sinanan said everyone who had confirmed tickets up to March 22 would be accommodated by CAL. “Nobody would be left back. Once you have a confirmed ticket you would be accommodated on the airbridge to go to Tobago.” Sinanan said passengers with vehicles would be transported on the cargo vessel Cabo Star.
“If you have a vehicle, you come to the port and it would go on the cargo vessel. You would be transported from the port to the (Piarco) airport, where you would get a flight to Tobago, and reverse when you are coming back. That will continue until we get the Spirit back in service.” He said the TT Express had to be drydocked as the limit of its seaworthy class had been extended as long as was legally possible.
“We have reached that limit. We have no choice, so for safety reasons the port has no recourse, but to take the Express off the run until we can get the Spirit back out,” he said. The Spirit has been on drydock since June last year. The minister said it had been undergoing repairs for such a long period because its drydocking kept being postponed. “We have missed this over two years for several reasons. I don’t have the details, because it would have been before my time. The Spirit will be back and the Express will be drydocked, and we have the Galleons Passage coming in at the end of April. “In the very short future we would have the three vessels operating. Hopefully we should never find ourselves in this position again. We will ensure that we have a proper maintenance system, a proper replacement of vessels system, and therefore it would not be as much work on each individual vessel.
“This is a time that is very unfortunate.I am very disappointed that we could not get the Spirit back on before the Express had to come off, but unfortunately it is something that we have to deal with,” Sinanan said. He said tickets to Tobago were being sold at the port, even for Easter travellers. Asked if CAL could handle the increased number of passengers, Sinanan said the airbridge was well able and had been doing so even before Carnival.
Vilma Lewis-Cockburn, manager, marketing and public relations of the TT Inter-Island Transportation Co, said there has been no congestion regarding travel between the two islands. She said 186 people were booked to travel yesterday and there were 55 vehicles in place to transport passengers. The Airports Authority (AATT) said it would be shortening the nightly work schedule of runway maintenance at the ANR Robinson Airport in Tobago.