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The arrival of the APT James at the Port of Scarborough, Tobago.

Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis says there will not be a repeat of mistakes made in the past as the government will take steps to maintain and secure the new interisland ferries. While speaking to the media at the Scarborough Port yesterday, Dennis was among a group of THA secretaries who went to the port to acknowledge the arrival of the first of two new fast ferries, the APT James.

The custom-built interisland ferry stopped for a brief moment in the waters off the port of Scarborough. Showing off its capabilities the APT James quickly made several turns in the ocean and blasted its horns before making its way to its final destination at Trinidad.

In 2018 the government was heavily criticised for what many called the collapse of the interisland sea bridge. At that time the T&T Spirit, which was on dry dock for several months, and the T&T Express, which had to be pulled from service after several mechanical issues, were servicing the route.

The T&T Express was also scheduled to go on dry dock for maintenance. In 2019 the vessel was put up for sale on account of the vessel being 20 years old and requiring significant sums for repair.

Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis, said lessons were learned from the experiences of the past.

“All of us knew that the issues we had back then were due to a lack of maintenance of the previous vessels and the government is committed to ensure that these vessels are maintained and to ensure that they are safe from saboteurs so we will have the service of these vessels for many years to come.”

Head of the Tobago Council of the PNM, Tracy Davidson Celestine who is also Secretary for Health Wellness and Family Development said the delivery of the APT James illustrates that a PNM led central government and THA ensures that the island’s development remains on track. She also responded to accusations that the arrival of the vessel coincides with the THA elections to secure votes.

“I would rubbish that statement for some time now we have been talking about how we can ensure that Tobago self-determines and the people are equipped with the necessary sources in order to make that a reality.”

When operationalised the APT James will join the T&T Spirit, the Galleons Passage and the government leased Jean De La Vallet, which amounts to a total capacity of 3,291 seats and accommodation for 686 cars on the interisland sea bridge. The Cabo Star is also servicing the route, which is the designated cargo vessel. However, when the lease of the Jean De La Vallet ends mid-2021, the total capacity will be reduced to 2,491 and 530 respectively.

The vessel was named after Alphonso Philbert Theophilus James, a famed rights activist who had served in Trinidad and Tobago’s legislative council. Its overall cost is US$73.55 million dollars, and it is the first of two custom-built vessels being built by the government to service the route. The second vessel the “Buccoo Reef” is scheduled for delivery within the next month.