Less than two months after the Galleons Passage began operating the Seabridge between the two islands, the Government continues to face a barrage of criticism over its less than stellar performance which most recently saw retrofitted panels becoming dislodged and damaging at least two vehicles being transported to Tobago.
The incident, which occurred last Wednesday, was said to be the latest in a long line of operational issues affecting the smooth sailing of the Galleons Passage.
Among the problems affecting the Galleons Passage since it’s maiden voyage on October 19 are mechanical issues; along with time constraints which forced the international captain and his crew to reduce the vessel’s speed through the Bocas so as to minimise feelings of nausea among the passengers.
Defending the vessel’s operations was Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan who said the Galleons Passage continued to function in the capacity it was intended for.
Claiming there was nothing wrong with the vessel, Sinanan dismissed concerns that issues continued to arise which hampered the vessel’s operations.
In the latest incident on December 5, the vessel was forced to return to the Port at Port-of-Spain less than two hours after it departed due to what officials claimed was adverse weather conditions which resulted in two car panels becoming dislodged leading to two vehicles being damaged.
In a brief interview, Sinanan said the vessel “was working and there are no issues with it or anything.”
Defending the operations of the Galleons Passage thus far, Sinanan said the international captain had opted to err on the side of caution and because of the rougher than normal seas, “He did not want to take any chances and decided to bring back in the vessel.”
The minister’s claims were in direct contrast to an online video which indicated clear skies, bright sunshine and calm seas.
Asked to respond to claims that the vessel still could not traverse the Bocas at full speed, Sinanan said, “I don’t know where that is coming from. The boat is designed for a certain speed and so far, it has accomplished that mandate.”
However, the minister stressed that vessel owners were constrained by how they operate up and down the maritime channel.
He explained: “When you leave the Port at Port-of-Spain, you cannot go to maximum speed immediately because there is an issue with the houses on the coastline because if you go to a maximum speed, you would create damage to some of the properties.”
Sinanan continued, “You have to get out of the channel at a certain speed before you can move up to your maximum speed. This is something that all vessels have to undergo.”
Reaffirming that the vessel was working as it was designed to, Sinanan said this method had enabled them to achieve the journey to Tobago within a four-hour period. Asked to provide an update regarding the acquisition of a third vessel to service the sea bridge, Sinanan said, “The ministry announced some time ago that there was a tender out for a third vessel to be leased. That tender has been completed and the process is almost finished, so very soon a recommendation will be made to the Cabinet.”
Sinanan said they were expecting to add two additional vessels to the route by 2020.
Reporter: Anna-Lisa Paul