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Minister sets record straight on ferry service repair costs

Claims that Government has wasted taxpayer cash by chartering a private boat to support public ferry services have been dismissed as "laughable" and "malicious" by Transport Minister Shawn Crockwell.

And the Minister also rubbished suggestions that Government should have instead spent the money upgrading its own fleet of six ferries by fitting them with new engines.

Government has forked out $1.44 million to run

Millennium on the Dockyard/St George's route for six months during the cruise ship season.

But a Marine and Ports source has claimed the vessel is surplus to requirements — because two of Government's six ferries are now sitting idle and could be put to work.

The source added that Government's fleet could have been fully upgraded with new engines for around $600,000 — half the cost of bringing in

Millennium.

Last night Mr Crockwell insisted that the charter was essential to ensure the fleet was able to keep up with demand. Last year some tourists complained the public transport system was unreliable after ferries were hit by mechanical problems.

And Mr Crockwell also criticised

The Royal

Gazette for running "a largely fictitious and certainly sensationalist story that bears no resemblance to truth or responsible journalism".

"There are no vessels sitting idle," Mr Crockwell insisted.

"We have flexibility to provide additional capacity when certain routes are overwhelmed or we can undertake critical maintenance as the need arises.

"This anonymous source claims all six fast ferries could have new engines replaced at a cost of $600,000. The truth is that replacement engines for the

Cecil Smith and

Warbaby Fox cost $150,000 each at first cost in the USA. Each boat has 4 engines. That’s $1.2 million for those two boats assuming engine replacement were the only option. That does not include shipping and installation and any changes to control systems should that be required.

The engines on the

Tempest and

Venturilla are smaller, but no longer available new — so to replace the 8 engines on those boats is potentially a similar cost. Instead we have consciously made the decision — backed up by the engine supplier — to undertake proper, frequent maintenance, and long term to swap them out and replace with refurbished spare engines. Buying new all of the time is a luxury that we simply cannot afford.”

Mr Crockwell claimed that

Millennium is providing "excellent service to St George’s and allowing the local fleet to be more effectively utilised to adapt to fluctuations in demand".

And he pointed out that approximately 500 people were transported from St George’s back to Dockyard on yesterday's 3.30pm departure alone — with 400 aboard the

Millennium and another 100 on-board the ferry

Venturilla in what the Ministry said was the highest demand to date this year.

Referring to the

Gazette’s story, which appeared in yesterday’s newspaper, Mr Crockwell said. "Some of the claims made in this story, to which we were never given a chance to respond, are laughable at best, and malicious at worst.”

“I would encourage

The Royal Gazette to not rely on anonymous sources who may have an axe to grind and to also check their facts before printing malicious misinformation. This Government has worked diligently to ensure effective transportation for our visitors and residents and so far this season we have had minimal problems or complaints.”

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Published June 21, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated June 21, 2013 at 12:27 am)

Minister sets record straight on ferry service repair costs

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