More confusion and bacchanal over the sea-bridge!
Social media was abuzz on Tuesday with news that the fired Ocean Flower 2 will be given a contract to operate the Trinidad and Tobago sea bridge from December 20.
While Minister of Works and Transport, Rohan Sinanan, says this is rubbish and fake news, people in other quarters are saying otherwise.
Demi John Cruickshank, Chairman of the Tobago Chamber of Commerce, says this whole fiasco had made the Keith Rowley-led Government look bad. He says a simple thing like finding a boat, the Government has not been able to source one.
Former Transport Minister, Devant Maharaj, said, “I have confirmed and verified that the TNT Express is to be out of service on 20th December. I have confirmed and verified that NIDCO hired a private consultant to inspect the Ocean Flower 2 to ascertain it sea worthiness to operate between Trinidad and Tobago.
“I have confirmed and verified that a member of the Port was present with this person on that occasion. It is reasonable to assume that the Ocean Flower will be used from the 20th December.
“So, it would mean they (Government) discontinued a legitimate and transparent tender saying no vessel was appropriate. They have found an avenue to select one of the vessels which was said to be ranked 4th.”
The original contract with the Ocean Flower 2 was terminated months ago after the vessel failed to arrive in Trinidad at a certain time. But the vessel eventually came and is at Chaguaramas on dry dock.
Government has taken matters into its own hands as the Port Authority has, for a sixth time, failed to procure a cargo vessel to service the inter-island sea bridge.
A four-member Cabinet sub-committee was appointed in November to oversee the procurement of a new vessel.
Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young said, “This is now the sixth time, it appears, that the process that was being utilized – a tender process being managed by the Port Authority with the Ministry of Works and Transport, has failed to produce, for the persons of Trinidad and Tobago and the users of the inter-island sea service – a ferry.
“Immediately upon the Cabinet becoming aware of his, the Prime Minister took charge of this situation, this has only taken place in the last week, mandated a very small Cabinet sub-committee set about to take charge and find a ferry in the shortest possible time to supplement.”
Finance Minister Colm Imbert, Tourism Minister Shamfa Cudjoe, Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte and Young have been mandated to procure the ferry.
Young said the committee has already had discussions with players in the international shipping arena which he expects will bear fruit soon.
He revealed that the committee has enlisted the help of Canada, Australia, Japan and Italy in sourcing a vessel.
The Minister assured that there is nothing to be worried about as Government is simply seeking to ensure that the inter-island ferry service remains uninterrupted, especially with the Christmas season approaching.
Young also expressed confidence in the committee’s ability to present solutions to the Cabinet that the ‘hamstrung’ Port Authority was unable to do.
He added, “We aren’t hamstrung by those who may want to influence the system by corrupt means or otherwise. The Cabinet sub-committee is now in a position where it has gone to international brokers and we expect to find a vessel or vessels.”
Noting that a forensic probe unearthed corruption at the management level at the Port Authority, he said it was no coincidence that six attempts at a tender failed, suggesting that monetary gain may have been behind the non-procurement of a vessel at this stage.
Asked what action would be taken against those found to have sabotaged the tendering process, Young said the report generated from the investigation has been forwarded to the Port Authority, who will then take the necessary action.
THE OCEAN FLOWER 2