$8 million upgrade for ports to accommodate Galleons Passage

Cabinet has approved the spending of close to $8 million by the Port Authority of T&T to get the ports of Port-of-Spain and Scarborough ready for the Galleons Passage.

Port chairman Lyle Alexander told the T&T Guardian yesterday that the Port requested the money to ensure that the pier is ready for when the Galleons Passage arrives.

The vessel inched closer to its final destination yesterday when it arrived in Panama. From Panama the vessel heads to Cuba.

Yesterday, Alexander said the Port is “doing ancillary works to accommodate the vessel when it comes at both locations in Scarborough and Port-of-Spain, that work is being done right now.”

Alexander explained that the Port has contracted the services of Polaris Marine to “put down some steel plates on the jetty to accommodate the ramp when it comes from the vessel and the installation of some piles to tie the boat when it is alongside the pier. That’s basically the work we have to do at both locations.”

Alexander admitted that the area being prepared for the Galleons Passage is near the new pier which was built when the Superfast Galicia serviced the seabridge and in the area which needed to be dredged to accommodate the vessel.

Although more than $30 million was approved for the dredging, the work has never been done and the Cabo Star, which is similar in size to the Galicia, continues to berth in the area of the Hyatt Regency used by the Galicia. Alexander could give no timeline as to when the dredging will be done.

He is, however, hoping that “we don’t have to do any dredging to accommodate the Galleons Passage.”

Sources told the T&T Guardian that it was funds allocated for the dredging which were now being used to do the work to get the port ready for the Galleons Passage. Alexander said the Port sought Cabinet’s approval for the $7.5 million for the work which needed to be done.

He is optimistic that the work will be completed before the Galleons Passage arrives. “The contractor mobilised today (yesterday), all the sheets have been put down…what we need to do now is what we call the marine work which is putting in piles to accommodate the tying up of the vessel, so we are hoping we can finish on time.”

Prime Minister Rowley last week told the Parliament in response to a question that the Galleons Passage should arrive in the country by the end of the month.

From Panama, the vessel travels to Cuba where it will spend ten days at the Damen Shipyard for installation of toilets and a full canopy over the sundeck and the remodelling of the rails on the passenger deck.

Those works are expected to cost the country an additional $2.3 million.

Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan said as far as he was aware there was no change in the ten-day schedule in Cuba. He could, however, shed no light on where the vessel, which is still carrying the flag of Vanatu, will be re-flagged to carry the flag of T&T.

Sinanan said, “That could be done either in Panama or Cuba.”

During Tuesday night’s debate on the mid-year budget review he also said that the “T&T Spirit” is back on the service and the “Cabo Star’s” (cargo) contracts has been extended. But he said Nidco will be going out to tender shortly for a more suitable vessel. And for the longer term, Government has decided to buy its own cargo vessel.

The Galleons Passage was purchased in January at a cost of US$17.4 Million, is registered in the name of the National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco) which will be responsible for the management of the boat in conjunction with the Port.

Source: www.guardian.co.tt (Rosemarie Sant)