Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles says Tobagonians are grateful to have another fast ferry, the Galleons Passage, on the sea bridge after the inter-island service “hit rock bottom” for the past two years.
“We have passed the worst and we are now heading into the boosting of our passenger service and a regular supply of goods and service…” Charles said, speaking at a welcome event for the Galleons Passage on its first official sailing on the sea bridge from Port of Spain to Scarborough.
“In the not too distant future, we would have a sea bridge operation in which we would all be justly proud. As it stands now there is an increase in the number of persons that can travel to Tobago on a daily basis and for that, Tobagonians are happy and grateful,” he added.
Charles said the return of the T&T Spirit (from drydock earlier this year) started the “rebuilding of the sea bridge perfectly.
“The arrival today of the commercial sailing (of the Galleons Passage) is recognition that it is being built even further.”
He said focus would be on preventative and proper maintenance of the new ferry, and hoped the necessary technology, equipment and training would be made available to Tobagonians to carry out such duties.
Works and Transportation Minister Rohan Sinanan, who travelled Tobago on the ferry in the VIP section, told media cameras have been installed onboard the Galleons Passage and more security officials put on duty as he reminded of reports past incidents of sabotage with the cargo vessel, the Cabo Star.
Asked about concerns that the Galleons Passage being in the Scarborough harbour would affect berthing of the Cabo Star, Sinanan said a temporary arrangement for the new ferry would see the ramp being removed daily to accommodate the cargo vessel. He said that within the next three weeks the Galleons Passage would have its own berthing space with the ramp permanently set up.
Sinanan reiterated that plans to improve the inter-island ferry service were progress with the customisation and delivery of two new passenger vessels in 2020.
“When these two vessels come into service we will relinquish the lease on the third passenger vessel and remove the T&T Spirit from service. This vessel (Galleons Passage) will work between Toco and Tobago, so we will have two fast ferries operating in Port-of-Spain and one in Toco,” he said, adding that 2,500 passengers were then expected to be rransported daily.
Sinanan also announced plans for a separate board and management team for the ferries and the sea bridge so as to prevent another collapse of the service.
Chairman of the National Infrastructure Development Company (NIDCO), Herbert George, told Newsday Tobago, there were no mishaps on the ride to Tobago, with the Galleons Passage successfully sailing between the islands in a reasonable time of four hours and ten minutes, comfortably transporting passengers.
Eighty-five passengers were on this first sailing, wit 10 vehicles on board. The vessel left Port of Spain at 6.07 am and docked at the Scarborough port at 10:40 am.