A simple task of finding a vessel for the sea bridge is out of the reach of the Port Authority. Imagine that! The Board of the Port Authority cannot find a boat for the Trinidad to Tobago run, and with Christmas fast approaching, Tobagonians are now at the mercy of the Government.
With the Port Authority having failed to secure a vessel, the Government has taken over the search. Really?
The recent tender exercise for a new Tobago ferry has failed to produce one and a ministerial team mandated by Prime Minister, Dr Keith Rowley, to find a vessel immediately is now searching overseas.
Stuart Young, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister said, “We’re disappointed. But there’s no crisis. The T&T Express is operating, we’re working on contingencies. Other vessels can make the trip also.
We’re supplementing sailings with the water taxi and will do all necessary to ensure minimum disruption.”
Three weeks ago, Rowley at the People’s National Movement (PNM) Convention at the Queen’s Park Savannah, promised an additional passenger ferry would soon be available.
Young added, “Unfortunately, once again the tender procedure failed to provide a ferry, the sixth time the process managed by the Port Authority with the Works Ministry has failed to do so.”
Why did the tender fail? Young said there may have been people seeking to influence the outcome.
He added, “It’s no coincidence six tenders failed. The Christian Mouttet report on the Port Authority found untoward situations. I dare say corruption. The Port Authority is unfortunately hamstrung by those who may want to influence systems.”
Young said when the failure became known, Rowley took charge mandating a Cabinet sub-committee to take over from the port and get a ferry in the shortest possible time to guarantee service over the Christmas-Carnival season. Rowley gave a date by which to get the ferry.
The team comprises Young and Ministers Colm Imbert (Finance), Robert le Hunte (Public Utilities) and Shamfa Cudjoe (Tourism).
The team is working with 13 international shipping brokers. They’ve contacted 10 international shippers and written consuls of Canada, Australia, Japan and Italy to assist.
Young said, “Some brokers have responded. We’re having discussions which are expected to bear fruit. We expect to return in the next couple weeks with an announcement. We may get better news than a leasing arrangement.”
The last vessel acquired by the Government – the Ocean Flower 2 – never arrived in Trinidad by the required date. So, the Government canceled the contract while the Ocean Flower 2 limped to Panama for repairs.
After the repairs were done, the Ocean Flower 2 sailed to Trinidad and is on dry dock in Chaguaramas. The owners of the Ocean Flower 2 tendered again for the contract. They are hopeful that they would secure the contract.
THE OCEAN FLOWER 2