The APT James fast ferry at ↔ PICTURE COURTESY NIDCO

There was good news for Tobago yesterday as Nidco has announced that one of the new fast ferries for the seabridge will be launched on May 22 at the Port of Vung Tau in Vietnam. And when launched, commissioning works for the new ferry, christened the APT James, will be undertaken.

In a brief press release yesterday, Nidco said commissioning works are expected to be completed by the end of July 2020, subject to current limitations of COVID-19 restrictions. It said the delivery date of the new ferry to Port-of-Spain will be subsequently released.

In July 2018, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced that the Government was “aiming to buy two new custom-built ferries,” for Tobago. The two, he said, would be fast ferries which would be about 89 metres, similar to the T&T Spirit and T&T Express.

The PM admitted back then that it would “take some time for them to be built, but if we put the order in now, sometime in the not too distant future, we are going to get two brand new fast ferries, that is what is going to put the Tobago ferry issue to bed once and for all.”

The announcement had come in the midst of concerns by Tobago stakeholders about the economic impact of problems experienced as a result of an unreliable ferry and cargo service following the departure of the Super Fast Galacia.

Subsequently, Australian company Austal said it had been contracted by NIDCO to design and build a 94-metre high-speed vehicle and passenger catamaran to be delivered in mid-2020.

In an announcement on its site in December 2018, Austal said it had entered into a contract with Nidco valued at US$63.9 million (Aus$97,700,000).

The ship, designated the 94m AutoExpress, is expected to provide high-speed passenger and vehicle operations on the seabridge between the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. The new vessel is already painted in the T&T red, white and black colours and is designed to carry 926 passengers and 250 cars at speeds of 37.5 knots.

The ship will also feature Austal’s newly developed and industry-leading innovation in smart ship technology, MarineLink Smart.

Austal CEO David Singleton said the company’s fleet in Trinidad includes four 41-metre catamaran water taxis and six 30-metre, monohull fast patrol craft.