The country’s newest ferry, APT James, is due to arrive in Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) waters on Friday.
The Austal’s ‘Auto Express 94’catamaran is expected to dock at the Cruise Ship Complex, Dock Road, Port of Spain, at 2.45 p.m., where it will be unveiled to members of the media.
Constructed by Australian shipbuilder Austal, APT James is the first vessel to be built by the firm’s Vietnam shipyard in Vung Tau, where it departed from on November 12 last year with an expected arrival of mid-December, subject to favourable weather conditions.
An all-aluminum high-speed catamaran, APT James comes with a 926-passenger, 250-car capacity, and travelling speeds of up to 37.5 knots. The ferry features the very latest in Austal’s ‘smart ship’ technology, including an advanced Motion Control System, to deliver a more comfortable and stable ride for passengers and crew.
Constructed in 20 months, and named after former hard-nosed Tobagonian politician Alphonso Philbert Theophilus James, the ferry will be the latest addition to the inter-island seabridge.
When Express contacted Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan last November over the naming of the vessel, he said it was a Cabinet decision and that he could not disclose the contents of Cabinet decisions. However, James unrelenting advocacy for a better Tobago which resulted in a number of major development projects on the island, including the purchase of two new steamships for the inter-island route in 1960, may have been the basis for the decision taken by Cabinet.
APT James was the subject of a Cabinet decision on September 6, 2018, that approved its purchase. That decision came following Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s visit to Australia in May 2018, where he met with executives of Austal, after winding up an official visit to China.
When the decision was announced, Rowley stated that the Austal vessel would cost the taxpayers of T&T US$73.55 milllion (US$64m plus an additional US$5.5m for pricing adjustment, accelerated delivery and refund guarantee).
The Government’s decision however, has been a subject severe scrutiny, as its procurement has been questioned on numerous occasions by the Opposition. The most recent scrutiny surround the vessel came on Monday via a declaration by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar that the APT James had numerous defects and it did not pass certification.
The APT James fast ferry, which cost taxpayers half-a-billion dollars, has numerous defects and did not pass certification, claims Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Speaking at the United National Congress (UNC) virtual meeting, Persad-Bissessar said on its way to Trinidad the vessel had to stop at various locations for inspections, and that certain issues were reported following an inspection in Malta.
“I have in my possession a copy of an inspection document from Malta, which states that on inspection there were not one or two deficiencies but six deficiencies of the vessel.
“These defects in the vessel range from a lack of proper certification and documents, to missing fire safety equipment, a lack of proper structural access points to vital areas of the ship. It was even discovered that the electronic charts that assist the navigation of the vessel was outdated and did not conform to current maritime codes,” Persad-Bissessar added.
It is unclear when the APT James, which will be managed by the National Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (Nidco), will be commissioned into service.