Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan today said all the necessary work on the Jean de la Valette ferry has been completed.
Speaking to the media after the 6th annual Road Safety Awards at his ministry in Port of Spain, Sinanan said the weekend of July 15 has been earmarked for the vessel to make its first commercial sailing.
Asked if any additional ramp or fitting had to be built for it, Sinanan said at the very least a ramp would have to be adjusted for any vessel.
“Our infrastructure will be designed in a certain way,” he said. “These vessels were not designed for us in TT.”
In acquiring other boats, he said, “ We would order those vessels bearing in mind our infrastructure.
“The Spirit, we had to adjust for it. All the vessels that we have used in TT, we had to accommodate them by building different ramps, and this vessel is no different.”
Sinanan said he expected a smooth sailing sometime next week.
He said the ministry is looking at the weekend of the Great Race and it is his hope to have two ferries operating.
“We are looking at if the logistics will work to actually have one of the vessels operate twice on that day. We are looking at all the areas that we can improve the capacity, and once it is possible, we will definitely consider it.”
Sinanan said once the speed and distance of the vessel is calculated, it is anticipated that the crossing to Tobago will take two and a half hours. He said the vessel is ten years old and is fairly modern.
“If you calculate the time it took to get to Trinidad, it actually came in five days before. So the vessel does have the capacity in terms of speed and the comfort. It is a huge vessel. We expect a smooth sailing across to Tobago and back.”
Asked when customised vehicle number plates will be implemented, Sinanan said they are currently being evaluated. He said there was a public tender and NIDCO is doing the evaluation. He said once a successful tender is received, the plan can be implemented in the later part of this year.
Asked for an update on the port to be build in Toco, Sinanan said the government announced the project in its 2015 manifesto.
“It is not a good thing to go out and build a port just like that. You must have all the required approval. Especially from the EMA.
“Once you undertake a project like that, obviously you have to ensure you don’t damage the ecosystem of the island. We are at the (point in the) process now where we are working with all the agencies.”
He said the ministry has a design for the port but is working with the EMA to ensure it has all the relevant approvals before construction starts.
“You cannot build a port in Toco and use the existing (road) network. As part of the project the plan is to upgrade the road infrastructure. Several plans have been rolled out: a brand-new highway, or the option to upgrade the existing road.
“We will upgrade the existing road, and at certain areas we may have to cut some new channels, which must be approved by the EMA. We are at the point where the EMA is at their final recommendation.”
Sinanan said the ministry had started upgrading the Valencia to Toco road and is hoping that by the time it is completed the ministry would have the approvals from the EMA to continue upgrading the entire Toco road. On private citizens transporting schoolchildren, Sinanan said there are laws that govern everything. He said there was a lot of talk of legalising PH drivers, “but that cannot be done just like that.” He said there is a system if drivers wanted to operate for hire, and a lot of people operated a taxi but did not want to go for a taxi badge or convert their cars from P to H because the cars must be inspected.
“Unfortunately there are some people who don’t want to go through all that and they just operate in the form of ‘private hire.’ That, as far as I can recall, is outside the law. But at the ministry we depend on the police service to do the enforcement.”
He said there are a procedure and a system in place and encouraged people to come into the ministry for information. The ministry was trying to simplify the process, he said, as it was taking too long to get a taxi badge or renew it, and to maintain safety.
“Sometimes the process is a deterrent in itself.”
On July 4 the body of three-year-old Isaiah Hazel was found in a school bus in California. It was reported he had fallen asleep in the school bus in the morning, and the driver thought all the children had been dropped off. The boy was only found when she went to collect schoolchildren in the afternoon.