Sunday, February 18, 2018

Provide full info on ferry purchase

By the time the already named Galleons Passage arrives to ferry passengers between Trinidad and Tobago, a full year will have elapsed since Government spokesmen casually boasted they would get a boat in little or no time. It has taken almost a year, too, for the Government in the person of Prime Minister Keith Rowley to acknowledge the commercial impact of the seabridge troubles on the island of his birth.

From snide remarks about the credibility of photographs showing depleted supermarket shelves in the aftermath of the Super Fast Galicia’s sudden departure last April to counter-arguments by ministers Stuart Young and Rohan Sinanan that the available vessels were sailing under capacity, the Government has consistently signalled its disbelief that Tobago’s commerce was being adversely affected by its bungling of issues at the Port Authority that resulted in a broken seabridge.

That is, until Monday when the Prime Minister, following a four-hour meeting with Tobago stakeholders, finally said: “They tell us they have been hit hard, and we believe, by the unreliability of the connection to Trinidad.” Nevertheless, this newspaper cannot help but wonder why the economic and social impact of transportation inefficiencies between the islands is left to belief.

Authoritative data is usually the measure by which objective conclusions are made. One must question, yet again, the absence of such data that allowed this economically serious and protracted issue to devolve into the realm of political spin.
The Government’s significant investment of US$17.4 million in the outright purchase of Galleons Passage is, from all indications, likely to alleviate inter-island passenger woes, despite the Government’s continuing dependence on the old Warrior Spirit and T&T Express.

That must be good news for Trinidadians and Tobagonians who depend heavily on the service. It is likely, too, to allay passenger anxiety to the extent that vacationing and working Trinidadians feel comfortable scheduling visits to neighbouring Tobago.

That said, full disclosure by the Government on its selection and procurement of Galleons Passage remains outstanding. While the Parliament’s Joint Select Committee report on procurement of inter-island transportation vessels will hopefully answer legitimate questions over the confusion that resulted from the departure of the Super Fast Galicia, it will not address equally legitimate questions about the acquisition of the new vessel.

In this regard, this newspaper calls for detailed accounting of the process used by the unusual inter-ministerial committee to secure Galleons Passage.
As the waters calm, there remain doubts about the MV Cabo Star, an old vessel that has already suffered several mechanical hiccups.

We wonder whether it could continue to provide reasonably reliable cargo transportation service to Tobago. The fate of the Cabo Star after expiration of its one-year contractual obligation to the Port Authority is in doubt. A comprehensive statement on this matter from the Government would demonstrate that it has learned a lesson in proactive engagement of impending problems on the seabridge.