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Ferry deal branded a waste of money

Government’s charter of a $1.25 million ferry to provide backup to the public fleet during the summer has been branded a waste of taxpayer money by Marine and Ports staff.

And workers are said to be furious at reports that foreign crews of the US-based

Millennium are being put up at a hotel when on the Island — and are given travel expenses to fly back home at regular intervals.

One Marine and Ports worker, who asked not to be named, claimed that three of Government’s six fast ferries are currently not being used at all. Two are on standby to cover periods when extra lift may be required, while a third has been in dry dock for months awaiting repairs.

The source claimed that, instead of spending $1.25 million for a six-month charter, new engines could have been purchased for all six ferries at half the price, extending the life of the fleet by several years.

Accusing public transport managers of applying short-term, band-aid solutions, the source said: “To get new engines for all six ferries would cost an estimated $600,000, which is much cheaper than bringing in a charter.

“Even though the new Government only came in December of last year, it still had time to look into this and implement it. It only takes a matter of weeks to put in a new engine. And of course, had it done so, it would mean that all six of our ferries would now be operational for another six years or so, without them needing to be constantly repaired, which is the case at the moment.

“As it is, we now have three of our own ferries doing nothing. Had the money been spent on new engines, we would have all six ferries in good working order — more than enough to see us through a busy cruise ship season.

“And we’re going to be facing the same problem next summer. What’s Government going to do then — hire another charter for another $1.25 million?”

Last month, Transport Minister Shawn Crockwell revealed that, in addition to the $1.25 million hire cost of

Millennium, Government will also be spending a further $190,000 in “peripheral costs relating to crew and vessel operations and insurance”.

Mr Crockwell said that this expense would be offset by savings “including $100,000 in reduced overtime and with reduction in unplanned maintenance and additional shift work”.

The Marine & Ports source questioned why Government seemed prepared to spend extra taxpayer dollars on foreign crews to skipper the

Millennium, rather than provide additional work for Bermudian staff.

“Granted, getting the engines installed would have meant more work for our staff, but isn’t that better than spending money flying foreign workers back home to the US for a break?,” the source said.

“Our staff are struggling, we’re all struggling, and that additional cost would be spent in the local economy, helping needy Bermudian families rather than being spent overseas. We feel very angry that Government thinks it’s okay to spend money on foreign staff and justifies this cost by make savings at home — by cutting back on work for Bermudians.”

The Royal Gazette asked the Transport Ministry to provide a breakdown of which ferries are currently being used on particular routes. This newspaper also asked for details of the $190,000 of peripheral costs to run

Millennium and if foreign skippers were being flown home on a regular basis.

The Ministry did not provide specific answers to the questions, but did insist that “there are no vessels sitting idle”.

In a general statement, it declared that it was “very pleased with the level of service” and that feedback from passengers had been “very positive”.

“We have flexibility to provide additional capacity when certain routes are overwhelmed or we can undertake critical maintenance as the need arises,” a spokesman said.

The chartering of the Millennium passenger ferry from Rhode Island has angered some Marine and Ports employees.

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Published June 20, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated June 19, 2013 at 11:59 pm)

Ferry deal branded a waste of money

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