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January 8, 2009

Sabotage blamed for water taxi woes

A new water taxi service between San Fernando and Port-of-Spain just inaugurated by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago has hit an unwelcome start-up problem: suspected sabotage.

The service is being operated by the National Infrastructure Development Company (NIDCO) with the help of Hornblower Marine Services.

Four second hand vessels have been acquired for the service, the 449 passenger Su (which has yet to arrive) and the 150 passenger each HC Milancia, HC Katia and the HC Olivia. The 150 passenger vessels are catamarans built by Britain's VT Shipbuilding in 2004.

Today NIDCO said that the H.C. Milancia experienced a technical difficulty during scheduled operations on Monday, January 5 and Tuesday, January 6 2009, resulting in a temporary interruption in the water taxi service.

The "technical difficulty" proved to be rags found lodged within the vesselŐs fuel system. One rag was discovered on Monday evening after maintenance crews conducted checks to determine the exact cause of the incident.

H.C. Milancia resumed operation on the morning of Tuesday 6 January 2009 but had to be withdrawn following a reoccurrence of the same technical difficulty.

Wednesday morning at approximately 9:30 am following its arrival at the shipyard at 7:00 am a second rag was discovered, in another of the vesselŐs fuel tanks

While the discovery of the first rag led NIDCO to believe that it could have been left in the tank out of carelessness during servicing, the discovery of a second rag was, said, NIDCO "too much of a coincidence."

NIDCO says it regards the discovery of these rags in the MilanciaŐs fuel tanks as a deliberate act of sabotage by persons unknown to thwart the efficient operation of the water taxi service and has requested a full investigation by the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service .

NIDCO says that the vessels currently being used for the operation of the water taxi service, the Olivia and the Milancia, have been inspected and certified by all the competent authorities and have met all operational and safety requirements.

NIDCO has taken immediate steps to strengthen its security arrangements for the water taxi service.


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