Controversy has dogged this ‘upgrade’ of the State ferry service
“White stork” (Cegonha Branca) is the first of the 10 electric ferry boats purchased by Transtejo for over €52 million to arrive in Lisbon for active service.
But in keeping with this tortuous process that saw nine of the boats purchased unable to run at all due to lack of batteries, Cegonha Branca has arrived with damage to her hull.
The ferry will need repairs before she can be used.
Right now, no one is saying exactly what the damage is, but according to information given to Observador, the repairs will be covered by Spanish manufacturer Astilleros Godán (whose motto is “The Right Way”).
A source for Transtejo, whose entire administrative board is reported to have resigned over the ‘lack of batteries’ controversy, said the Spanish shipbuilder will “proceed with a habitual and rigorous evaluation of the boat and determine the realisation of necessary repairs. Costs will naturally be assumed by the charterer of the cargo vessel responsible for transport”.
What this will end up meaning is that Cegonha Branca has arrived, but her arrival ‘will only become definitive once she is in a position to start operating’. Then there will have to be the various ‘inspections’ by entities like DGRN (the general directorate of natural resources), safety and maritime services.
In other words, the purchase arrangement (of one complete electric boat and nine without batteries, likened by the accounts court recently to ‘buying a car without an engine, or a bicycle without pedals’) has lurched into new less than glittering territory.
And the big question is ‘what about the nine other boats’? The accounts court has refused authorisation for a further €15 million to be spent acquiring the necessary batteries by ‘direct contract’ – and it has passed its ruling to the public prosecution’s office, for perusal.
State-owned Transtejo reportedly told the court that it hadn’t had enough money to purchase the boats and the batteries “simultaneously”.
Says Observador: “Judges refused this explanation (…) questioning: “If this (financial) limit only permitted the purchase of one complete boat and nine incomplete ones, would it not have been better to buy less boats, but complete? With batteries, to allow them to navigate?”
As to the moment when spanking new electric ferry boats will be charging through the Tejo waters, transporting citizens in 21st century style, it’s looking like a case of ‘don’t hold your breath’…