The government is at an advanced stage of discussion with Austal, the Australian shipping company, over a partnership to set up a programme in Chaguaramas aimed at evolving a robust ship maintenance industry.
The Prime Minister announced this at Coast Guard headquarters, Staubles Bay, Chaguaramas at the arrival ceremony for the Austal Cape class patrol vessels TT Port of Spain and TT Scarborough.
Dr Rowley said the country can only get the best use of its vessels if there is a programme to allow its engineers to do regular maintenance when it is due.
“Against that background, discussions are under way and well advanced for Austal not to only be the supplier of these two vessels, but to partner with the government of TT, here in the Chaguaramas peninsula ,to establish, maintain and grow a ship-maintaining business. I trust that these discussions will be concluded soon.”
The intention is to use the facility at CL Marine Ltd Caribbean Dockyard and Engineering Services as the maintenance centre, Rowley said.
“The aim is to grow that service in such a way, in Chaguaramas, that we will have the equipment and personnel to provide that wider service not only to the Coast Guard but to the private sector throughout TT and in the Caribbean.
“To do that, we will have Austal working alongside us, providing us with the training, equipment and confidence to carry out such maintenance, and we will take into that arrangement qualified and enthusiastic people – men and women – who are prepared to make marine engineering services and ship service a career in TT."
He said he hoped very soon to launch "that kind of development, which will become another significant effort in diversifying the economy...As an island nation, we believe if we make this kind of investment we can create not only a basis of support for our Coast Guard assets but create job opportunities and export services.”
He said without a proper maintenance programme all the government's efforts will be in vain.
Until this programme comes on stream, Rowley pleaded with Coast Guard officials to ensure regular maintenance is done to prevent unmanageable mechanical issues.
“I want to say to the senior officers responsible for managing these assets: these are a significant investment of the people of TT, and I appeal to you to treat them as such.
“These vessels are not only Coast Guard vessels, but they also are an opportunity for us to increase our involvement in marine engineering, ship repairs and boat repairs and the development of persons who will have the skills here in TT, having been trained to have wider and deeper careers – because these vessels will only be of good use to us if they are maintained."
The patrol boats were handed over to Trinidad and Tobago in May and arrived in the country on July 7. The 58-metre vessels can stay at sea for up to 28 days on patrol and can accommodate 27 crew members.