Thursday 20 September, 2018

Cabinet sub-committee to source new Tobago ferry

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 has been appointed to oversee the procurement of a new vessel.

Registering his disappointment in the tendering process, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young told reporters at the Post Cabinet Media Briefing on Thursday that Cabinet will not sit by while citizens are affected.

“This is now the sixth time, it appears, that the process that was being utilised – 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.

“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.

“I am not going to preempt in any way possible, whatsoever, a due process taking place with respect to what has been found forensically and otherwise with respect to what is happening…so I’m not going to stand here and speak about any heads rolling. This Government always makes sure that somebody is held accountable, or persons will be held accountable.”