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New tug boats on the horizon

Visitors will find it easier to get around the Island and two new tug boats will be bought to aid cruise ships in reaching the Island, Minister of Transport

Derrick Burgess announced during the Budget debate yesterday.

However, the minibus service transporting commuters to the Rockaway ferry stop will be axed from March 31 and students might lose their free transport on ferries at the weekend.

Mr Burgess expects some 345,000 cruise ship visitors in 2012; the second highest number on record. He anticipates 162 cruise calls in total generating $80 million for the economy. A waiver on the cabin tax of up to $14 per cabin per day, initiated in 2009, will continue for another three years.

A proposal to allow cruise ships to open their casinos in port will be brought to Parliament this year, although the details are not finalised, according to the Minister. He believes this would entice more cruise liners to visit.

An enhanced transport plan for 2012 will see more ferry seats available on the route between Dockyard and Hamilton due to incorporating the tender

Bermudian into the regular ferry schedule. There will be more trips from Dockyard to St George’s using high speed catamarans and a Saturday service from Dockyard to St George’s when the

Explorer of the Seas cruise ship is in port.

“This will assist the merchants and tour operators in St George’s,” said Mr Burgess. Meanwhile, retired bus drivers will be asked to operate shuttle buses between cruise ships and Horseshoe Bay.

Shadow Minister for Transport

Pat Gordon-Pamplin said she would be pleased to see the transport service for visitors and locals alike improved. Anything, she said, “is better than what we had last year with the negativity to our reputation and the frustration”.

Mr Burgess went on to detail how the Department of Marine and Ports currently has three harbour tugs. The sister tugs

Powerful and

Faithful have a bollard pull of 40 tons as well as firefighting, oil dispersant and oil recovery capabilities. However, the third tug,

Edward M Stowe, has a lower bollard pull of 32 tons and generally serves as a relief tug when

Powerful and

Faithful are undergoing maintenance, he explained.

“The future of this third tug is very much under review in an effort to reduce costs in the current economic climate,” he said.

Two modern and more powerful tug boats with a minimum bollard pull of 70 tons are needed in Bermuda, especially with the larger cruise ships now calling, and money for replacing them has been included in the Ministry of Transport’s capital expenditure plan, he revealed.

He stated that the minibus service which shuttles west end residents to the Rockaway ferry terminal will be discontinued when the current contract ends on March 31, saving Government $220,000. Ferry fares remain under review due to the “highly subsidised nature of local public transport”.

“Fare policies such as free student transport on weekends may be ended as one example of the general realignment of ferry fare revenue generation mechanisms versus public transport niceties that we can no longer sustain,” he added.

Mr Burgess said a new fee structure for the 5,200 boat moorings in Bermuda will be introduced in line with accepted practice in other countries.

“The mooring size and swinging room occupied, as dictated by the associated vessel length, will now be charged for as part of the licence renewal process,” he said. “The legislation covering this change will be brought before the House for approval in the coming weeks.”

In other marine-related news, he said night pilots will be implemented in 2012 “to allow cargo ships to potentially enter and depart with more flexibility at night”.

At the airport, six new state of the art X-ray machines will be in operation by April to screen carry-on and hand luggage. Increased security staff salaries have been budgeted for as CCTV cameras covering the airport and aircraft parking area are now being monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Turning to the issue of bus schedules, Mr Burgess said the current operating schedule, which dates back to 1999, is being rewritten and should be implemented by the end of the school year in June to maximise efficiency and cut overtime.

Trips that now begin and end in Grotto Bay will soon continue on to St George’s. Trips that start and end at Barnes’ Corner and Somerset will in future continue on to Dockyard. There will also be an increased service after 8pm on weekdays and on Sunday mornings.

Meanwhile $3 million will be spent on replacing six to eight older buses in order to improve reliability and cut repair costs.

Questions over the budget were raised by Shadow Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin and also

Charles Swan, who was elected as a United Bermuda Party MP. Mrs Gordon-Pamplin asked for details over what consultancy services are being paid for and how much is being paid to the West End Development Company for leases. She also requested that information be included on the new bus schedule to say which services will have disabled access.

Mr Swan also suggested the price of rents needs to be looked at. He raised concerns over several navigational aids to shipping that are out of service including some lights on Watford Bridge.

Both MPs praised the Transport Control Department for being more efficient than it used to be.

The two opposition spokesmen asked questions for so long that there was no time left at the end of the four hour debate for Mr Burgess to answer any of them.

“They used up the time and prevented me from answering even half a question,” noted the Minister. “I will not sleep tonight knowing that I can’t answer.”

New tug boats are on the horizon to help cruise ships.

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Published March 06, 2012 at 8:45 am (Updated March 06, 2012 at 8:45 am)

New tug boats on the horizon

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