AUSTRALIAN shipbuilder Austal will determine whether it can establish a facility in TT that can offer vessel maintenance and other services.
The company will also assess four water taxis and six Coast Guard patrol boats, which it manufactured, which are in TT.
A statement issued yesterday by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) confirmed the arrival of an Austal team in this country. Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley first spoke about this team coming to TT at a news conference at the Diplomatic Centre last Wednesday. Rowley visited Australia last month.
The OPM said the inspection the team will do on the water taxis and patrol boats is being done at the Government’s request, in order to produce a report on the state of the vessels.
This report, which Government expects will be provided in the coming weeks, will include suggestions towards getting all these vessels operational and seaworthy. The Austal team is also expected to propose suggestions for a maintenance programme for them.
Rowley condemned the former People’s Partnership government for running the six patrol vessels into the ground.and said they will be made operational again.
Last week, he said Government is seeking to acquire at least one Cape Class patrol boat for the Coast Guard from Australia. Made by Austal, the Cape Class is one of the Australian Navy’s top vessels. The Cape Class features include the ability to undertake 28 day patrols, sail 4,000 nautical miles without refuelling and combat a full range of maritime security threats.
While in TT, Austal’s teams will visit shipyards and dry dock facilities. The OPM said this will be to “ascertain the viability of developing a facility to offer maintenance and other services out of Trinidad.”
Rowley met with executives of Austal and Incat, another Australian shipbuilder, in Australia. Both are to provide proposals to Government for new fast ferries for the sea bridge. Rowley said Cabinet should receive the first proposal within two weeks.
A new ferry would cost US$80 million, take 18 months to be operational and financing arrangements would be handled by the Australian Export Corporation.
Underscoring the importance for new vessels for the seabridge, Rowley explained it is important for Government to place an order now.
With a high worldwide demand for fast ferries, Rowley said, it is possible to sell the TT Express and TT Spirit, adding that this would not result in the seabridge having no passenger ferries.
He also disclosed that while visiting Incat’s facility in Tasmania, his delegation was shown documents which indicated that government employees ignored an offer from Incat to provide vessels so that the Spirit and the Express could drydock, he added, promising this would be further investigated.