The Port of Port-of-Spain is being dredged for the first time in almost 20 years at a cost of $60 million. The project is being handled by Dutch Dredging with the one-year-old vessel the Lesse. Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan says with the dredging of the port, larger international vessels will now be able to enter the port.
This is the first major project for the vessel which can hold 2,300 cubic metres of material at a time. The dredging is done with a suction arm which is lowered to the seabed level to suck up silt and sand. After the vessel is completely filled, the material is taken to an appropriate dumping site.
Sinanan took several members of the media on a tour on the Lesse on Wednesday to see how the dredging is being done.
He said this project was way overdue since the last time the channels of the port were dredged was almost 20 years ago. Unfortunately, three tenders were aborted since 2013. Dutch Dredging was awarded the project through public tender.
"This will allow us to streamline the port to allow the Tobago cargo to operate where it is supposed to be operating. One of the challenges we would have had was the larger vessels could not dock. We would now be able to accommodate all the vessels, including the newly-built vessel we expect to run some time this year, and we will be able to streamline the operations for the port in terms of the Tobago passenger and cargo service. This contract should be completed by the end of this month when we would have been able to remove the quantity of silt that had to be removed."
Sinanan said the project cost $60 million, but they would have had some cost savings because the port did a good job in managing the contract.
"When the contract started, there were some unforeseen piles and so on that they met at the bottom of the jetties that would have been there for years. Although there was some extra work in the contract we would have been able to accomplish some levels of savings wherever we could have."
The minister said if the silt was allowed to build up, then vessels coming into the port would find it difficult to do so.
"We do have large vessels who want to come in and they can't because of the amount of silt that builds up over a period of time. Dredging is an ongoing exercise. You are supposed to have this done on a maintenance basis. We want to ensure that all the Tobago vessels can berth here so we can free up the port for international vessels."
Chairman of the Port Authority of TT Lyle Alexander said the confidence of the seabridge was back.He said there was one cargo vessel and three passenger vessels operating on the seabridge.
"We are doing 2,000 passengers one way. We are doing well in terms of availability of our equipment. We have a level of confidence in our operations now. We are at a place where we have more confidence in our maintenance capability and the way we are running our vessels."
Alexander said the Jean de la Valette will be taken off the schedule on January 24 for maintenance to return on February 4.