IS the newest fast ferry – the APT James – defective?
The vessel is on its way to Trinidad and Tobago to join the fleet servicing the inter-island seabridge between Port of Spain and Scarborough.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has produced an inspection document for the vessel, originating from Malta, which she claims shows that the $0.5 billion ferry has six deficiencies, which raise questions over its seaworthiness.
The APT James is one of two vessels bought by the National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco) in a government-to-government arrangement with Australia.
The other vessel, named after the Buccoo Reef, has been commissioned in Tasmania, Australia by shipbuilder Incat and is expected to arrive in the first quarter of 2021.
At the launch of the United National Congress (UNC) January 25 local government campaign on Monday night, Persad-Bissessar said the announcement of the purchase the vessels were made after a trip to Australia by the Prime Minister “and his sidekick National Security Minister Stuart Young.”
She said there was no proper procurement in this arrangement.
“We now see that a vessel called the APT James is on its way, costing the taxpayers approximately US$73.55 million, or TT$0.5 billion.”
She said on its journey to TT the vessel stopped at various locations and had to be inspected. Being a brand-new vessel, at that cost, she said, one would have expected APT James to be free from any deficiencies.
Reading from the inspection document, she said six deficiencies were identified.
They included a lack of proper certification and documents, missing fire safety equipment and a lack of proper structural access points to vital areas of the ship.
"It was even discovered that the electronic charts that assist the navigation of the vessel were outdated and did not conform to current maritime codes.
“The fact that these deficiencies exist at all, in what is supposed to be a brand-new ferry, demonstrates the lack of attention to detail that went into preparing the ship before it was sent to our country.
“You see, this was a government-to-government arrangement which is no longer subject to the procurement law. They can make these big purchases without any oversight.”
She accused government of creating a crisis by "crashing" the seabridge, making the people and the economy suffer when it got rid of the cheaper super-fast Galicia. which cost $170,000 a day, and chartering the Cabo Star for US$22,500 a day, along with the Ocean Flower at US$26,500 ar day and the Jean de la Valette at $263,000.
The APT James has the capacity for 926 passengers and 250 cars. It can travel at speeds of up to 37.5 knots.
There was no response to messages sent to Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan for clarification of Persad-Bissessar's claims.