An assault on every facet of national security apparatus- The “blimp”, which made its debut in T&T in 2005 as an airship with sophisticated monitoring capabilities, was disposed of in January 2012.
Keeping the blimp at Camp Cumuto helium-charged was costing too much money, and it was advised that it was better to sell the skyship to the highest bidder.
Worldwide Aeros, the US company, which is based in California, was the company from which the PNM had purchased the blimp at the cost of US$15 million.
People’s Partnership sources expressed that although the blimp was being sold at a loss, it would save the country a considerable amount of money to dispose of it.
According to well placed sources, it was said that the Skyship was showing signs of wear and tear, and was rusting in some places.
In 2007, the third blimp was purchased from Worldwide Aeros and since September 2011 had been left in a hangar at SAUTT’s Camp Cumuto headquarters. The blimp was grounded to facilitate maintenance work, but that work was never carried out because of a decision taken by the PP Government to cease use of the blimp. The last time the blimp was used was in July 2011, when the Priority Bus Route was opened up to members of the public during peak traffic hours. Then Minister of Works and Transport at the time, Jack Warner had requested SAUTT carry out patrols from Arima to Port-of-Spain on a daily basis to ensure all went well at the PBR.
Government sources revealed that in August 2011, a company hired by SAUTT to carry out maintenance work on the blimp was fired because they felt it was too costly to maintain the blimp.
In Jan 2012, a well placed source said that the then Government was aware that minus the surveillance equipment and lack of maintenance, it would not have been able to fetch the hefty US$15 million for the blimp. The first blimp was purchased by the PNM administration at a cost of US$12 million. Months after the purchase was made, the Skyship began experiencing difficulties. The PP then took a decision to lease a foreign used blimp at a cost of US$100,000 per month, while the third blimp was purchased for US$15 million. An additional cost was added to that US$15 million to outfit the third blimp with surveillance equipment.
In September 2011, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar set up a steering committee to review the resources and restructuring of SAUTT. Another decision was taken to wind up the operations of SAUTT and a committee led by Deputy Police Commissioner Stephen Williams was assigned to oversee the operations of SAUTT and facilitate the sale of the blimp. The PP announced that it was not interested in using the blimp for further surveillance patrols and revealed that the decision was taken by the implementation committee to downsize SAUTT and make better use of its training academy.
In September 2011, five foreigners and one local had expressed interest in purchasing the Airship-Skyship 600.
With respect to the Skyship 600, the total cost of maintenance from the date of acquisition was $19,714,314.