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Hydraulic woes hit T&T Spirit

Friday, April 20, 2018
A tugboat escorts the T&T Spirit into port after the vessel encountered a mechanical issue while trying to dock in Port-of-Spain yesterday. PICTURE KERWIN PIERRE

Four days after returning to the seabridge after a ten-month absence, a hydraulic hose burst on the starboard side of the T&T Spirit yesterday as it sailed into the Port of Port-of-Spain and the vessel was unable to berth immediately.

The vessel left Tobago at 6.25 yesterday morning carrying 366 passengers and 129 vehicles and arrived in Port of Spain at 9.25 but was unable to dock.

One passenger said they were told by the captain that the vessel could not berth because of a problem with the hydraulic line.

Recounting what happened, the passenger said, “The vessel could not reverse to the ramp because the hydraulic system had failed. They tried to get a tug to pull the boat but it did not reach. So they had to make a rounds back on the ocean to try and reverse the boat to the ramp.”

Passengers who went to get their vehicles to disembark were told by port officials to return upstairs.

T&T Inter-Island Transportation Company acting CEO Vilma Lewis-Cockburn told the T&T Guardian when the hose burst it meant the “ramp could not go down,” hence the reason why passengers and vehicles could not disembark. She said the hose was replaced in about 40 minutes and disembarkation took place just before 11 am, approximately an hour and a half after the vessel docked.

Port Authority chairman Lyle Alexander said he expected to get a technical report on what happened, but did not expect any further problems would develop.

“The bottom line is the only problem we have been aware of is that the hydraulic line was leaking and the hydraulic line has been repaired and passengers were able to disembark,” Alexander said.

Told people were concerned the vessel was already encountering mechanical issues after ten months on dry dock and millions of dollars on repairs, Alexander admitted “that is a fair concern,” but he said “it’s a piece of machinery and problems occur on machinery. Until we know what happened we can’t make any pronouncements.”

On April 7, Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan said he had ordered an internal audit into the dry docking of the T&T Spirit, which was taken out of service on June 6, 2017 and only returned to the seabridge on Monday. But yesterday Alexander said the audit was yet to begin as they are now in the “process of engaging the auditors to do the job.”

Meantime, the Galleons Passage is travelling at an average rate of between 8.1 to 11 knots as it continues its journey to Mexico for a five-day stop over. The vessel is expected to arrive in Mexico on April 27, which means its arrival date here will be delayed. The new estimated date of arrival in Trinidad and Tobago is mid may.

Speaking at yesterday's post-Cabinet briefing about the issue, Sinanan said, "It's not a major mishap, these things happen from time to time."

He said, he'd have received a report on the matter yesterday.

Acting Prime Minister Colm Imbert also confirmed the Galleons Passage vessel experienced a 12-day delay due to bad weather and also as US authorities did inspections of the vessel in Hawaii. Fuel tank storage on deck was also inspected and passed.

"Not that anything was wrong - the vessel is functioning perfectly," Imbert added

Next stops will be Acapulco, Mexico, the Panama Canal, then Cuba for its scheduled upgrades before arriving in Port-of-Spain.

Imbert also said the Central Bank has agreed to grant a license to the Exim Bank to become a foreign exchange dealer to sell Forex to manufacturers. He said the arrangement should be in place by month-end.

Yesterday, OPM communication strategist George Elias made his debut as host of the briefing. The role is usually done by OPM legal adviser Stuart Young, currently in London with the Prime Minister's delegation to the Commonwealth leaders' conference.

(With reporting by Gail Alexander)




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