WATSON DUKE will race a pirogue from Tobago to Trinidad to prove it can beat the ferry Galleons Passage, he vowed at a briefing yesterday.
The Public Services Association (PSA) leader was joined by maritime attorney Nyree Alfonso and dockers' unionist Michael Annisette.
In the wake of his famous partial swim from Tobago to Trinidad, Duke said in the ferry’s first week of service, he will travel by pirogue, change his clothes, then host a news briefing.
“We’ll show that a pirogue can travel the same route and reach faster than the Galleons Passage.”
Duke dubbed the ferry “a slow boat” travelling at 11 knots and taking six hours, slower than the current ferries Spirit and Express, which reach 30 knots and take 3.5 hours. He scoffed that rather than the buy the Galleons Passage, the Government should have spent those millions of dollars to buy pirogues for Tobagonians to travel to Trinidad.
Duke alleged the Government had changed its tune on the Galleons Passage’s specs: it was originally said to take 700 passengers and 100 cars, but now said to take just 400 passengers and no cars.
He alleged that for political reasons the Government had raced the boat to Tobago at a dangerously high speed of 22 knots, to do the trip in 4.5 hours.
Saying Tobagonians are not happy with the Tobago-born Prime Minister, Duke said, “You’ll get a surprise licking come 2020, because this (issue) is not going away.”
Alfonso scoffed at the government’s litigation against her as an effort to muzzle her that is doomed to fail and would in fact make her a wealthy attorney.
She alleged thee had no proper procurement of ferries in recent times, and alleged the Cabo Star should have been leased for about US$12,000 per day, but TT was overpaying this cost by US$10,000. She found it astounding Dr Rowley could just walk into a shipyard in Australia and start ordering ferries, as she challenged his maritime expertise to do so and whether he had first consulted local ferry users.
Alfonso also lamented that vessels from both shipbuilders Incat and Austal will be ordered, as this would incur two different sets of spare parts and technicians.
She asked which TT expert had visited China to okay the Galleons Passage as suitable for here. Alleging unsuitability for heavy seas, she said Austal vessels work in seas with a sea scale of five, but TT waters are sea scale six.
Alfonso said all six Coast Guard vessels bought by this government are now down.
She alleged TT is paying much more to lease its water taxis than Martinique and Guadeloupe paid for similar boats . Saying the Prime Minister had spoken of corruption around the Cabo Star and Ocean Flower II, she asked what had been done about this.
“One manager went to Panama and said, ‘This boat is not suitable,’ and he was fired for his candour.”
Alfonso accused the government of ignoring the need for the right specs for the new ferry but just rushing to get one before the next general election.