History of the Ferry Service

History of the Ferry Service


The Government Shipping Service or G.S.S. as it is generally called can be traced as far back as 1901 when the Government of Trinidad and Tobago signed a contract with the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company of Great Britain for the operation of a Shipping Service. At that time the only means of transportation between the two islands was by sea.

Two vessels operated the service until 1915 when one of them was withdrawn due to World War I requirements. In 1924 the Government purchased its first vessel the “SS Belize” (note SS means Steam Ship) which operated the service up to 1929. This vessel made one round trip per week calling at such places as Toco, Blanchisseuse, Grande Riviere, Matelot, Mayaro and Cedros, where passengers and cargo were taken ashore.

In 1930, the “SS Tobago” was acquired and took over the service of the “Belize”. Sometime the following year the “Tobago” was joined by the “SS Trinidad” and together these two vessels operated the service for approximately 27 years.  Both vessels were of the conventional type with a total accommodation of 384 passengers and cargo capacity of 488 tons. The Port of Spain – Scarborough run was done on a weekly basis.

In 1957 the SS Trinidad and SS Tobago were taken out of service and orders were placed for two roll/on roll/off type vessels. In the interim, several vessels were chartered to operate the service. These were “the City of Port of Spain”, “The Zinnia”, “The Caracas”, “The Blue Star’, “The Radar” and “the Madinina”.

…………..TO ROLL ON ROLL OFF VESSELS – The Scarlet Ibis, The Bird of Paradise, The M.V. Tobago, The M.F. Gelting and The M.F. Teisten

The service was revolutionized in the 1960’s with the introduction of two Roll/on Roll/off type vessels, “The Scarlet Ibis” and “The Bird of Paradise”. These served the sea bridge for approximately 25 years. Each of these vessels had passenger accommodation for 192 persons and cargo capacity of 244 tons.

However, as the service improved, its demands and needs surpassed the capacity of the Scarlet Ibis and The Bird of Paradise and in August 1976 the M.V. Tobago was acquired to meet the projected needs, with passenger accommodation for 650 persons and cargo capacity of 400 tons.

By 1982 the M.F. Panorama was on order but it would be 6 years before it could be delivered. In the interim, the M.F. Gelting and the M.F. Teisten were chartered to operate alongside the M.V. Tobago.


The introduction of the M.F. Panorama in 1987 was another notable benchmark in the development of the Service. This was a highly sophisticated Ro/Ro vessel with passenger accommodation for 700 persons, plus 25 double berth cabins, a conference facility and cargo capacity of 1,025 tons.

On November 5th 1994 the Condor 9 made its inaugural voyage to Tobago. This was the first fast ferry to undertake the transportation of passengers only, between the two islands. The journey time was estimated at just over 2 ½ hours. The condor serviced the route for just over three months.

In December 2000 the Government chartered The M.V. Beauport, a passenger Ro/Ro vessel to service the sea bridge. With a passenger capacity of approximately 1000 and car capacity of 150, this vessel operated between the two islands until June 2005 when it was taken out of service.


The Cat and The Lynx

The introduction of the fast ferries “The Cat” and “The Lynx” to the ferry service in January 2005 and May 2005 respectively marked a revolution in travel between the two islands. Passengers appreciated the speed, luxurious accommodation and the comfortable ride that these vessels provided and were particularly pleased with the fact that the journey could be completed in a mere 2 ½ hours.

With passenger capacity of up to 850 passengers (including crew) and car capacity of approximately 200 cars, ‘The Cat’ proved a comfortable and affordable means of travel between the two islands and was a hit with Trinbagoians. In May 2006, The Cat completed its contract with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, while the Lynx continued to operate under lease to service the sea bridge. With two daily departures each, from Port of Spain and Scarborough, the vessel often departed with a maximum capacity of  800 passengers and 180 vehicles.

Port bids farewell to The Beauport and welcomes The M.V.Sonia

As the nation prepared to bid farewell to The Beauport, the need for another conventional Ro/Ro vessel to compliment the services of the M.F. Panorama became evident. On December 11th 2004 the M.V. Sonia graced our shores in true majestic style, bringing with her all the state-of-the-art conveniences of a modern cruise vessel.  The vessel was licensed for 1026 passengers and 150 cars as at February 2006, when it completed its contractual agreement with the government of Trinidad and Tobago.

The Warrior Spirit replaces the M.V. Sonia

Replacing the M.V. Sonia was the ‘Warrior Spirit’ On arrival at the Port of Spain Harbour on 14th  June 2006  the vessel was re-christened in tribute to the local soccer team (a.k.a the Soca Warriors) who had done the nation proud, qualifying for the first time and creating history as the smallest nation ever to be represented at a World Cup.

Accommodating some 120 passengers and with a vehicular capacity of 146 trucks and 150 cars, the vessel caters primarily to the needs of those customers wishing to transport cargo to the sister isle.

Two fast ferries now fly the flag of Trinidad & Tobago – The T&T Express and the T&T Spirit

On  2006 August 03, the GORTT disclosed its plans to purchase two fast ferries, at the cost of $416 million – The Incat 060 (sister to The Cat) and The Lynx, which was at the time operating under lease.

The Lynx, nine years old, was purchased at a cost of $126 million while the four-year-old Incat 060 cost the Government $290 million.

On 2006 December 27 the Port Authority commissioned the first National fast ferry, renamed ‘the T&T Express’ into service.  The vessel was purchased from Allco Finance Group Ltd. at a cost of US $20mn. It was built in 1997 and has a passenger capacity of 900 (including crew) and a vessel capacity of 200 cars. Facilities include a café/restaurant area and a Bar, as well as a ramp for the disabled. The vessel has been drydocked, re-furbished and painted in the national colours at a cost of US $2.15Mn.

On 20th July 2007, the second fast ferry was commissioned. Christened the T&T Spirit, the Incat 060 – 98 meter vessel was converted from a military-type configuration to a passenger-type design. With a passenger capacity of 900 (inclusive of crew) and vehicle storage of 200 cars, the vessel affords passengers all luxuries and comfort equivalent to those of ‘The Cat’. The vessel made its journey from Hobart, Tasmania, Australia at the end of  May and arrived at the Port of Port of Spain in time to service the peak summer period.