Thursday, August 26, 2010

Interesting story on 41M Austal vessels in Trinidad & Tobago


"Trinidad and Tobago's new water taxis..."
Thursday, August 26 2010
Contributed by: ibalgobin

Water-Taxis “Paria Bullet” & “Trini Flash” undergoing sea-trials in Australia.The new Minister of Works and Transport, the Honourable Jack Austin Warner in his recently stated position has announced that he is seriously giving thought to divesting at least two (2) of our brand new Austal designed and built forty-one metre (41M) water-taxis already named “PARIA BULLET”, “TRINI FLASH”, “CALYPSO SPRINTER” and “CARNIVAL RUNNER”. This desire to want to sell-off “surplus” state assets that are “unable to pay for themselves” may be considered good thinking on his part.

The People’s Partnership Government inherited the previous administration’s business model of acquiring foreign used and/or new vessels with “built-in” maintenance contracts, some for as long as five (5) years, with foreign-based marine service providers, as is the case with the six (6) Trinidad and Tobago Offshore Patrol Craft (OPC). According to what has been previously stated by the Honourable Minister of Works and Transport and mentioned in the media, the maintenance cost alone for these four new water-taxis amount to some sixty-nine million dollars (TT$69 million), per year. Normally, as is the case with new automotive vehicles, very little maintenance is required within the first few years of operation, with the exception of routine air/oil filter changes, engine and hydraulic oil changes, lubrication of bearings, usually undertaken after a fixed scheduled number of running hours. As a matter of information, the sale of new marine vessels, normally carry a standard one (1) year shipyard manufacturer’s warranty, which would normally cover both major and minor components, ranging from engine propulsion units to navigational equipment.

In the last three (3) years, the previous administration had outsourced the purchase, maintenance and operational aspects of all of our passenger vessels to foreign entities. Examples of these contracts can be seen with the maintenance and operation of the three (3) used Hydrocruisers (existing water-taxis fleet) which is presently undertaken by Hornblower Global Maritime, Inc. (USA), the used twin INCAT inter-island fast ferries to Bay Ferries Management Limited (CANADA) and the most recent contract for the new water-taxis given to Austal Limited (AUSTRALIA). This foreign outsourcing model will invariably lead to an enormous imbalance between local revenues earned and expenditures paid-out in valuable foreign exchange, related to the operational and maintenance costs of our local passenger fleet.

As a developing country with a new administration intent on diversifying our economy from the energy sector, we all have to start to think even more creatively and look at new opportunities, as they arise.

So, from a purely economic standpoint, the new Minister cannot be faulted for wanting to divest these unproductive assets. However, there may be viable alternatives. For example, these new “surplus” water-taxis can be used to transport tourist from visiting cruise liners that dock at the port of Port of Spain and from those staying at the newly built waterfront Hyatt Regency Trinidad and the nearby Crowne Plaza hotel to Maracas Bay. Local residents will also appreciate driving to our capital cities of Port of Spain, San Fernando and soon-to-be Chaguanas, on weekends and public holidays enjoying the scenic water-taxi ride along the north coast of Trinidad, to and from our beautiful bathing beaches.

With the government owned water-taxi car parking facility available nearby, this can easily provide a convenient meeting point for our population, who will prefer to park their vehicles in a safe and secure facility, rather than to drive for several hours in slow moving traffic to and from the main beaches with their families, as is very common during national holidays. Likewise, the new water-taxis with their two levels of aircraft type seating accommodation can be utilized to offer a similar air-conditioned “tourist-like” experience to our world famous Caroni Swamp, via the Gulf of Paria sea route. The use of these environmentally friendly water-taxis with their large panoramic tinted windows and silent Kamewa waterjets should go well with environmentalists and the visiting scarlet ibis, including the aquatic wildlife.

The People’s Partnership manifesto promises not only to diversify our economy, but to also develop the maritime industry, which should include the development of our local vessel repair and maintenance capabilities. Therefore with a little creativity and thought, we can possibly do both with the newest additions to our maritime fleet.

Interior View of T&T Water-Taxis showing aircraft style seating accommodation.


- Photos courtesy and article written by Wilfred de Gannes, T&T Shipbuilding and Repair.

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