Monday, December 18, 2017

Fast ferry service still sadly adrift


Eight months since the departure of the MV Super Fast Galicia, there is still no efficient and dedicated passenger ferry to Tobago and the population is none the wiser about precisely why.
By Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley's count in Tobago on Monday, six efforts to secure a passenger vessel to service the Trinidad-Tobago seabridge have failed.

By this newspaper's accounting, those six efforts have been accompanied by a change of board of commissioners, a parliamentary Joint Select Committee (JSC) enquiry, a sole-investigator report, suspension of a senior manager at the Port Authority, outright termination of the Port's chief executive officer/acting general manager, unfulfilled but not forgotten ministerial promises on schedules to render the T&T Spirit and T&T Express seaworthy, and stubborn defences of the new Alison Lewis-led board.

The Government, through its Minister of Works and Transport and the board whom he supervises, is overdue for a full, detailed accounting to the population.
The leadership of the Prime Minister, as head of the Cabinet, cannot escape scrutiny.

Ground zero on this calamitous demonstration of inefficiency is the Galicia fiasco which left the Port scrambling to find a suitable alternative with short-term leases of two vessels.
Continued complaints resulted in procurement of the troubled MV Cabo Star cargo vessel, economic losses for Tobago's businesses, a hit to Tobago's tourism as yet unacknowledged by the Tourism Minister, an overburdened airbridge service and overall inter-island traveller anxiety.
 
Utterances on the latest failure to secure a replacement passenger vessel illustrate the confusion being communicated to the public.
Last Thursday Minister Stuart Young assigned blame to the unnamed “people” who “wanted to influence the system by corrupt means or otherwise”.
 
He did not indicate if and how the Government intended to address that. Two days later, Port Authority line minister Rohan Sinanan steered clear of repeating Mr Young's allegation, as did the Prime Minister on Monday.

On September 5, Port chairman Alison Lewis reassured the JSC thus: “We have asked for a multidisciplinary team comprising persons, not just of the Port but also the Ministry of Works and Transport in the various divisions, to comprise that evaluation team. So that we would get the best possible experience, knowledge to bring to bear on that evaluation exercise as we go forward.”

Two months later and there is still no vessel.
This newspaper finds it difficult to accept Minister Young's assertion that an inter-ministerial committee “will get the job done.”