AFTER more than a decade of use, government has decided to sell the vessel TT Express citing several maintenance problems, a prospering selling market and availability of newer vessels as reasons behind this decision. This was revealed by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday as he announced the purchase of four vessels from Australia, two for civilian use and two for the Coast Guard.
Speaking at a press conference at Coast Guard headquarters in Staubles Bay, Chaguaramas yesterday Rowley said when he entered office in 2015, he met the TT Express and Spirit in disrepair and lamented the lack of care to both vessels. He said while the Spirit managed to be salvaged, the Express which has been in operation since 2006 has several operational issues and there is no longer any interest in continuing repair work.
The Express, purchased for US$20 million, was already ten years old at the time of purchase. Rowley said another vessel will fill the gap as water taxi until the Australian vessel arrives before the end of 2020.
"We will not be spending US$7 or $10 million on dry docking of the Express. The resell market for vessels like the Express is quite good now, so it is a good time to sell. We will not be doing any further repair work on the Express as that will not raise its resell value.
"We will now immediately take steps to get another more usable vessel in the short term which will be with us until our new vessels are available." He said despite government's best efforts, they could not locate another Fast Ferry for sale, but assured public at the moment there are three vessels capable of transporting persons and goods from Trinidad to Tobago.
Rowley said that the coast guard has 24 interceptors of which only five are operational and there are plans to bring the vessels back up to standard. He said government is still negotiating with the Australian government to procure two K-class vessels for use in conducting long-range patrols.
He said the vessels are to be accessed through a $2 billion fund for export loan agreements, set up by the Australian government in increasing the ease of access of Australian-built equipment to other Commonwealth states.