Sunday 1st May, 2005

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More Cats for greater efficiency

It is amazing that after more than 100 years of being made a ward of Trinidad, Tobago still is in the infancy of its development, still needing to nurse and feed off Trinidad, still not yet weaned and able to stand on its own two feet.

Just a simple thing as travel between T&T remains a difficult and dicey proposition at best, and sometimes impossible, at worst. This has been exacerbated over the last couple weeks with the crash landing drama of the Tobago Express flight and the subsequent investigations which seem to have all but grounded their fleet. So judges, magistrates, doctors, lawyers, teachers, policemen, businesspeople, and ordinary citizens have all been inconvenienced greatly within the last few days. So after more than a century of union, we still cannot navigate the short distance between the two islands efficiently and


Since as far back as 1492, Christopher Columbus was able to successfully navigate and travel from Europe all the way to the Caribbean with little more than the sun, moon and stars to guide him and with little or no technology whatsoever and still, in 2005, with Vision 2020 looming round the corner, we have difficulties seeing our way to cross a small body of water. We should be ashamed of ourselves! It is probably easier now to get from London to Tobago than it is to get from Piarco to Crown Point.

Thank God for the Cat! It has proved to be a masterstroke which has come to the rescue of the travelling public and has apparently been doing so with some degree of swiftness and efficiency, so much so that the sitting high court judge in Tobago for the month of April remarked at being very pleased with the service when he travelled on it.

Temporary measure

But this Cat is just a temporary measure, as I understand it is due to go back from whence it came, with somebody or some bodies being considerably enriched, with the reported US$24,000 per day leasing price. It appears now that the good folk at the Port Authority have finally seen the light and realised that with about a few months’ lease rental you could purchase your own boat, and rumours are that they are making moves to purchase two such vessels. They should in fact purchase four. This would, indeed, be a welcome move as it will facilitate business and professional travel greatly, in that if a swift, effective, efficient service is offered between Port-of-Spain and Scarborough, then it would greatly enable the maximising of one’s day and one’s time.

Tobagonians coming to Trinidad on business will be dropped off right in Port-of-Spain and will not have the hassle of landing at Piarco and then having to fight up with the traffic down to Port-of-Spain. Going the other way it is also facilitated for persons doing business in Tobago as you can board the vessel in Port-of-Spain and within two and a half hours, you have arrived in comfort and are disembarking at Scarborough.

Haphazard and


What needs to be looked at though, would be the departure times and the length of time taken to load and unload the vessels with vehicles and goods. This timeframe for lining up with vehicles is way too long! The system is too haphazard and disorganised. The Port Authority has made some improvements over the years but this system still has a long way to go.

It is pointless to boast that you’re taking people between the two islands in two and a half hours if it requires you to line up for a frustrating three hours, before you can get to put your vehicle on the Cat. This defeats the whole purpose of the speed and efficiency of the vessel. Additionally, the departure times should be 5am and 5pm from both Scarborough and Port-of-Spain so that one boat leaves Port-of-Spain at 5am, taking folks who have work or business in Tobago, getting them there at 7:30am in enough time to grab a quick breakfast meal and to be able to start the workday at 8am. Similarly, the folks from Tobago who wish to travel to Trinidad should have a vessel leaving Scarborough at 5am so that they get into Port-of-Spain at 7:30 and are able to get an early start to their business day.

Many Tobagonians have to come to Trinidad on business with Government offices and other departments which are supposed to start work at 8am, so this will greatly facilitate them and allow them to have a fuller and more productive day. The 5pm departure time will also make more sense as a permanent feature, because it allows persons to have an entire day of work or business or leisure, and still get down to the port in time to catch the 5pm boat.

We should buy four Cats instead of just two, so that we would have more than adequate capacity and can then offer travellers the convenience of having a second one leave both Port-of-Spain and Scarborough at 7am so that it facilitates those who don’t have to get in early or who are going strictly on leisure. So with two Cats leaving Port-of-Spain every morning one at 5am and one at 7am, and with two Cats leaving Scarborough every morning at 5am and at 7am, you would have more than adequate alternatives to Tobago Express and BWIA as the preferred options for travel between the islands and would greatly increase efficiency and productivity for those travelling between the islands for work, or business or professional reasons and this would certainly be the beginning of the end of Tobago transport woes.

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