President of the Tobago Business Chamber Martin George is calling for a back-up vessel to service the inter-island seabridge whenever the MV Cabo Star —the lone cargo vessel servicing Tobago – is out of commission.
On Monday, the MV Cabo Star was taken out of service for two weeks for planned maintenance works.
In an advisory, the TT Inter-Island Transportation Company Ltd notified those who regularly use the cargo service that the vessel will undergo maintenance between June 5-16. It is expected to resume normal operations on June 17.
Speaking with Newsday earlier this week, George said, "Generally, the Cabo Star has been doing a good job but it is the only vessel of its kind, so we clearly need to look at implementing a back-up vessel or maybe a couple smaller vessels, as back-ups, to fill the void when the Cabo Star goes on scheduled maintenance.”
Safety, security and proper maintenance, he said are important.
Commenting on the issue, chairman of the Tobago Division of the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce Curtis Williams while the situation was “unfortunate," he said it is understandable.
“It’s an unfortunate situation, as according to the inter-island transportation company, these repairs are due to an emergency situation which needed to be rectified quickly. The company gave us some notice so we could stock-up accordingly.
"As you may be aware, most of our members don’t have much of a luxury of stocking-up due to non-availability of the necessary cash flow. The fast ferry service was given to assist in taking vehicles (weighing) three-tonnes and below with food items.”
The company said vehicles up to 7,000kgs will be accommodated on the Buccoo Reef and APT James during the Cabo Star’s downtime for maintenance.
It added that overloaded vehicles and others with extensions will not be allowed on the Buccoo Reef and APT James. Due to space limitations, there will be no storage of cargo on the port compound and flatbed operations will cease during the period.
The company also said no dangerous cargo or livestock will be transported on the Buccoo Reef and APT James. During the absence of the Cabo Star, priority will be given for the transport of food items.
An additional sailing of the Cabo Star is planned for June 17, departing from PoS at 1 pm and departing from Scarborough at 10 pm. Vehicles without an accompanying driver will not be allowed on the Buccoo Reef, the APT James and the Galleons Passage vessels.
At the Port of Spain Ferry Terminal, trucks and other vehicles will be required to park within the terminal yard to access the vessels. All ticketing and check-in processes will be facilitated inside the PoS ferry terminal building. At the port of Scarborough, all systems will remain as is.
The company said the maintenance work was necessary to ensure the MV Cabo Star’s optimum performance and the safety of all passengers, vehicles and personnel during sailings.