DESPITE reports that the TT Spirit would be back in service tomorrow, Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan said the vessel has not yet received its certification to meet international safety standards.
The Spirit had been on drydock for several months to undergo maintenance and repairs in preparation for its return to the seabridge.
The problems found when they began repairs included engine failure in May 2017. Two engines had to be rebuilt. The other two engines needed servicing.
Upon further inspection, a new crank shaft had to be acquired. It was ordered in July and received in December 2017. Two turbochargers had to be replaced because they could not be repaired. Those were ordered in 2017 and received in January 2018.
There had to be repairs for seals, bearings and jets in June, which parts did not arrive until October 2017.
Chairman of the Port Authority of TT (PATT) Lyle Alexander said a five-year certification was being sought after repairs were completed.
However, after several sea trials a number of problems kept cropping up.
Sinanan said the Spirit had been undergoing sea trials for the past two or three weeks and they were ongoing.
“Until the certificates are completed and I have the certificates from DMV which would allow the boat to operate, I will not be able to make a pronouncement on when the vessel would return to the seabridge.
“I was given several dates on Saturday by the port and for some reason or other, minor things came up and that would keep pushing it back. So until the port tells me they have all the final certificates then I would not be able to say when she would be seaworthy.”
Vilma Lewis-Cockburn, manager, marketing and public relations at the TT Inter-island Transportation Company (TTIT), said she knew nothing about the Spirit being back in operation tomorrow.
“I don’t know anything about that. They are still doing sea trials and it is supposed to go out for another trial today (yesterday),” she said. In a release yesterday, the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce (TTCIC) said it was concerned about the overall management of the PATT.
“We need to get serious about putting in place long-term institutionalised solutions. Without them, we will be jumping from one ad-hoc response to the next, as demonstrated by the recent involvement of the National Infrastructure Development Company (NIDCO) and the Minister of Finance in the recent ferry acquisition,” the Chamber said.
The TTCIC said the current situation with the ferry did not come about suddenly, but has been on a steady decline as there was an absence of any short or medium-term planning surrounding the inter-island ferry service. It stated contingency measures put in place pending the arrival of the Galleons Passage were inadequate to alleviate the current situation.
The TTCIC said while the Galleons Passage may be helpful to ease the calamity of the inter-island ferry service, unless it was part of a cohesive strategy, it was not an ideal long-term solution to the seabridge.
It said the lack of a reliable ferry service adversely affected Tobago’s economy and promoting the sister isle as a vacation destination was difficult.
The TTCIC said negative ripple effects were reaching not only Tobago’s tourism sector, but also cottage industries, manufacturers and distributors and threatening livelihoods on both islands.