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Transforming the T&T ferry service

Friday, April 27, 2018

After being sidelined for some four months, I am about to make my customary ferry trip to Tobago. It is not that I was unable to reach Tobago by the air bridge but, as a matter of principle, I decided to “suffer” rather than forsake my Dears T&T Express and T&T Spirit which had become part of my pattern of living.

You see, the convenience and relaxation which I had experienced travelling by ferry, could not be equalled by “hopping” via the air bridge. Indeed I am sure that similar sentiments will be expressed by countless travellers who, because of their attachment to the ferry service, may be described as being members of a ferry fraternity—a bond which saw itself being demonstrated by the strong annoyance which were evident during the period of absence of a reliable ferry service.

Whatever may have been evident during the ferry debacle, (such as, for example, one’s ability to undertake the comical and laughable swim to Trinidad), one thing is clear—there was no meaningful suggestion as to how the misfortune attending the ferry service could be avoided in future.

Instead, one witnessed a blame game, filled with polemics, which was intended to score political points. Indeed, even the stakeholders, both in Tobago and in Trinidad, did not find it fitting to offer possible solutions.

What was clear was the hope of a return to the gimme-gimme syndrome of widespread subsidisation, which has been a marked feature of the ferry bridge as well as the air bridge. The debacle which has visited the ferry service ought to bring home the need for a review of the whole modus operandi underlying this embryological chord.

Not too long ago this writer, in a Letter to the Editor, made what he felt would be a heroic proposition, the gist of which would entail transforming the Trinidad and Tobago Inter-Island Ferry Service Co Ltd into a private company, ie an entity which would be cut from the boot-strings of the Port Authority.

Since then, recognising the traditionally ingrained disposition towards a subsidised ferry service, I now make a somewhat revised suggestion. It is the conversion of the T&T Ferry Service into a Public\ Private Partnership with shares being subscribed by the Government, on the one hand, and stakeholders on the other. In this regard, such a partnership would see the Government providing the capital side of the operation eg ships and docking facilities with the recurrent expenses (ie running cost and maintenance) being met by stakeholders (ie users of the service).

Should not a transformation, such as here being submitted, be given birth from the recent debacle? Sceptics would, of course, see difficulty in erecting a Board, for example. This I do not see! What if the Government shareholding be vested in the Corporation Sole? Is he not already involved in the purchase of the Galleons Passage? As for the rest of the partnership, should users not welcome the opportunity to influence the pathway to be followed in future?



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