The Opposition Leader has described the current Tobago ferry situation as a "scandal of the highest order." These remarks were made following the cancellation of the Ocean Flower 2 contract by the Government. The following is a press release by the Opposition Party:
“A scandal of the highest order, which reeks of mismanagement and corruption, and which warrants a police investigation.” This, according to Leader of the Opposition Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP, regarding the Government’s handling of the procurement of the Ocean Flower 2 vessel for the Trinidad to Tobago sea bridge.
Mrs Persad-Bissessar said it is not enough to simply cancel the contract, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley must account to the people of Trinidad and Tobago.
The Opposition Leader issued the following statement:
I raised concerns about possible corruption in this deal several weeks ago, yet the Government continued with the procurement of the Ocean Flower 2 vessel for the Trinidad to Tobago sea bridge.
The people of Trinidad and Tobago deserve to know all the facts regarding the Government’s decision to scrap the contract for the Ocean Flower 2. Were proper procurement procedures followed, who initiated and authorized the agreement for the Ocean Flower 2 and on what basis?
Dr Rowley has been silent on this matter, and I reiterate my call for answers as to how a company with no record was awarded the contract. Several other questions must now be answered, including:
- Were advances paid and if so, to whom?
- Were there any finder’s fees, legal fees or any other fees and to whom were these fees paid?
- Were specifications given for the vessel, if so who developed them?
- Who took the decision to lease and on what basis?
- When was the lease signed and by whom?
- Who are the shareholders and directors of Bridgemans Trinidad LPC, as no record of this company can be found in the Companies Registry of Trinidad and Tobago.
- How could a company not registered here be given this charterparty by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago?
The Prime Minister, as well as the Minister of Works and Transport and the Chairman of the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (PATT) must clear the air on this fiasco.
We in the Opposition have been informed that the Ocean Flower 2 was sold from its original owners on June 26, 2017, and a few days later was in a charterparty to lease it to Trinidad and Tobago.
Further, it is our understanding that the Ocean Flower 2 failed safety requirements as late as March 2017, and was due for an annual inspection this month (August 2017). I call on the Government to state whether Port Authority officials advised, following a site visit last week, that the state of the vessel’s mechanical functionality was unsatisfactory.
In addition, I call on the Government to confirm whether the engines in use in the Ocean Flower 2 represent old technology which pre-dates what is in use in the local fast ferries – the T&T Spirit and the T&T Express.
Further, international brokers have informed us that the absolute top rate of daily charter hire that the Ocean Flower 2 could obtain would be US$15,000.00, but the Government agreed to pay a significantly higher rate of US$26,500.00.
This ferry scandal is cause for grave concern, and warrants a thorough police investigation. It is my intention to write to the Canadian authorities calling for an investigation into the transaction involving the Canadian company Bridgemans Services Group LP.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley must accept responsibility for this debacle.