The controversial Jean de la Valette ferry is being leased by Government for 34,500 Euros a day, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has confirmed.
With the currency conversion rate at TT$7.64 to one Euro, the 34,500 daily Euro rate which Rowley gave in Parliament yesterday works out to be about TT$263, 580 a day for the ferry.
Rowley gave the daily lease cost while replying to Opposition questions after United National Congress whip David Lee sought the cost of leasing the ferry, including crew, supplies and securing it.
Rowley said the 34,500 Euro daily rate was the overall cost of leasing and operating the ferry. He didn’t have figures on the cost to relocate the vessel (from Europe) to T&T. He said engineering assessments for dredging the Port of Port-of-Spain to accommodate the vessel are currently being made. As soon as this cost is finalised and work completed, he said Parliament would be informed.
The vessel is being leased for a year (with option for six more months) to assist the Tobago ferry service. It recently generated controversy due to issues concerning its background.
Yesterday, after Rowley gave the vessel’s daily lease cost, UNC senator Saddam Hosein took issue with the daily (TT) quarter million cost to taxpayers, which he pointed out was higher than the costs to lease the Super Fast Galicia and even Cabo Star vessels.
Hosein said, “Government has taken a decision to have taxpayers foot this obscenely high cost of 34,500 Euros per day - just over quarter million dollars a day - which at the end of its one-year lease would have cost the public over TT$91 million.”
Hosein noted that the cost to lease the Super Fast Galicia was US$17,500 a day (approx TT$117, 425) and the Cabo Star was US$22,500 a day (TT$150, 975). The daily cost of another leased ferry, the Ocean Flower 11 was US$26,500 (approx TT$185,500). That contract was terminated in August 2017.
“These costs are nowhere close to the Jean de la Valette’s cost. Since this vessel comes with the option to lease for an additional six months, the PNM could even end up burdening taxpayers with a $136 million bill overall. This may be the most expensive vessel any Government’s leased and it comes with a background of alleged defects and arbitration trouble.”
Hosein added, “Apart from the fact this cost raises more questions, we’re also still unaware of the additional costs related to this vessel: cost to mobilise the vessel to T&T, to dredge the Port to accommodate it, legal fees and other associated expenses.
“NIDCO’s also confirmed the vessel would require a ramp for passengers, vehicles and cargo to disembark - so that cost is still to come also, as well as the cost of the officers who travelled to Malta to inspect this vessel.”
He added: “Why is such a high-cost ferry necessary for a year? Are taxpayers - or who’s really benefitting from this deal? Where is Government going to find the money for this vessel, considering the Finance Minister recently said cash was ‘tight?’”
On other Opposition queries yesterday, Rowley dismissed as “UNC gossip” queries on “swirling reports” that a minister - who’s a majority shareholder in the former Kay Donna drive-in being acquired for the Curepe Interchange - received $100 million in compensation.
Rowley said, “I don’t respond to rumours, gossip and mischief on ‘reports swirling’ - I know of no ‘swirling reports’. I know of no minister who received any money or any $100 million. This is just UNC gossip!”
Rowley also said appropriate preparations are being made by the Finance Ministry on the recently announced Housing Bonds’ and it’s anticipated the ministry would be in a position to address this in the mid-year review.
- by Gail Alexander