Tobago stakeholders have welcomed news of the arrival of the new fast ferry, the $17.4 million Galleons Passage in Trinidad on Monday night but have expressed concerns about the ability of the vessel to service the sea bridge.
“We have been expecting it so long, thank God it is finally here, but let’s see what will happen now. What is my main concern is what it will do,” Claude Benoit, President of the Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce, told Newsday Tobago on Tuesday.
Kaye Trotman, President of the Tobago Pres Bed and Breakfast & Self-catering Association, said she was waiting to hear if the vessel was able to operate smoothly between Trinidad and Tobago.
“I have no feelings whatsoever because its arriving doesn’t mean anything because I don’t know how it will function, how it will perform, so until that is a reality I will reserve my comments. Yes, we are happy it is here but suppose it doesn’t meet our needs or function the way it ought to function?
“We have to wait…they have to do their tests, so until is it actually in Tobago operating then we can experience it, but it being here doesn’t address anything for us, we need to see it operating,” Trotman stated.
On Tuesday, Lyle Alexander, Chairman of the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (PATT), told Newsday Tobago that no date has been set for the vessel to make its maiden voyage to Tobago.
Alexander said after various inspections by Customs and Excise are completed, the vessel will be handed over to PATT and only then would a schedule be drafted for the vessel to make its first sailing to Tobago.
Chris James, President of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association, told Newsday Tobago he would reserve comment until the vessel arrives in Tobago.
And Chamber Vice Chairman, Martin George, said information was needed on the vessel’s capabilities, not its interior design.
“To make a judgment right now would be premature until the relevant specialists have done their testing and verification and certifications, not just to look at it and say it look big and pretty as those things do not really assist. We would like to get the input of the Truckers and Traders Association and the maritime engineers who would be able to tell us the ability of the vessel to suit our port, our waters and our need in Trinidad and Tobago. At that point we will know if it is a stud or a dud,” he said.
The business and tourism sectors in Tobago have been hard hit with the breakdown in the ferry service, dating back to the first quarter of last year when the sea bridge suffered from the termination of the services of the cargo vessel, the Superfast Galicia in April, and then the dry-docking of the T&T Spirit in June, leaving the T&T Express as the lone vessel on the route. The Cabo Star was brought in as a cargo ferry, but inter-island passenger transport continued to suffer especially in late December into the first quarter of 2018, with constant breakdowns of the T&T Express.