Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan is perpetuating a narrative that seems entirely inconsistent with the facts about the present disastrous state of the Trinidad and Tobago sea bridge.
FIXIN’ T&T is convinced that this most recent collapse could have been avoided and was the unfortunate result of inertia, ineptitude, incompetence, arrogance and political immaturity on the part of the Dr Keith Rowley-led PNM Administration.
Concerns raised about the procurement of the MV Superfast Galicia (SFG) must be thoroughly and transparently investigated. That said, Government’s handling of this matter has been at very best reckless, irresponsible and without one iota of care or consideration for the people of Tobago, who have yet again fallen victim to petty politics.
Further, Prime Minister Dr Rowley, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi and Minister Sinanan have publicly made some very serious allegations and threatened lawsuits regarding this matter in an apparent attempt at intimidation and damaging reputations.
The words corruption, ransom, ‘beneficiaries’ and ‘bobol’ along with the phrases criminal conduct and economic blackmail are now associated with the parties involved and those who dared to raise their voices; all in the absence of any investigation or the offering of a shred of evidence.
Those responsible for and culpable in creating this debacle must be held accountable and dealt appropriate consequence. This is an absolute imperative in moving effectively forward to realising a sustainable solution.
FIXIN’ T&T’s conclusions are drawn from our investigations which unearthed the following sequence of events leading up to the decision by the owners of the SFG to withdraw their vessel from Trinidad and Tobago:
The MV Superfast Galicia was contracted by the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (PATT) for two 12-month contracts, from 1 May, 2014 to 30 April, 2015; and from 1 May, 2015 to 30 April, 2016.
- 4 December 2015: Intercontinental Shipping Limited (ICSL) writes to then Works and Transport Minister Fitzgerald Hinds to advise that they “understand that a decision was taken back in September of this year by the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (PATT) to extend the contract of the MV Superfast Galicia for a period of two (2) years, but to date we have not received official confirmation of this contract award and we seek your assistance in understanding the Government’s intention with regard to the MV Superfast as soon as possible.” ICSL advises: “Consequent to this agreement, and based on our legitimate expectations emanating from the 2-year extension, we initiated financing arrangements through a local financial institution for the outright purchase of the vessel. “It should be noted that the ship’s owners have agreed in principle to the sale, but advised that otherwise the vessel will need to be returned to Gibraltar at the end of February 2016.” Additionally ICSL sought to explore the possibility of a “private sector-government partnership in the dredging cost in and around the ferry terminal area so as to adequately accommodate the MV Superfast.”
- 20 January 2016: ICSL writes Finance Minister Colm Imbert outlining similar enquiries and identifying what it considers to be the many benefits of the SFG and again explores the dredging partnership.
- 29 January 2016: ICSL writes to the Chairperson of the Port Authority, Christine Sahadeo, alerting of the consequences of the delay: “We are approaching the ninety-day mark (FEB 1) regarding the required notice period for the extension of this contract, as the contract is scheduled to end on April 30.” ICSL adds: “If a two-year contract is not granted we will be unable to purchase the vessel and it must leave no later than April 15 to meet the owners demands.”
- 8 April 2016: PATT responds to ICSL saying: “The Ministry of Works and Transport (MOWT) has approved the recommendation of the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (PATT), to renew the Charter Hire of the MV Superfast Galicia for a further period of eighteen (18) months.” It indicated that said contract would take effect from May 1, 2016 to October 31, 2017.
- 27 April 2016: ICSL writes PATT indicating that that the owners of the SFG have agreed to the extension, adding that :“In order to avoid any interruptions with the service we require payment no later than April 29 for May. The payments for June and July need to be processed by May 10 and in the meantime we can finalize the contractual agreement between all parties.”
- 31 May 2016: The Ministry of Works writes to the Tobago Division of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce informing it of the agreement, giving the assurance that “Steps are being taken regarding the execution of the subject agreement between the parties.” The same letter acknowledges the contract for the MV Warrior Spirit ends on 31 August 2016 and that it too is being reviewed.
- 7 June 2016: Mr Leon Grant, Acting CEO of the Trinidad and Tobago Inter-island Transport Company Limited (TTIT), writes to Minister Hinds to complain about the “Conduct of the Chairperson of the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago, Ms Christine Sahadeo.” Mr Grant expresses concern about interference. He notes that “at meetings held on 2016, March 16 and 2016, April 8, at the Ministry of Works and Transport (MOWT) with regard to the replacement of a Passenger /Cargo (Ro Ro) Vessel, Management unanimously on both occasions recommended the renewal of the MV Super Fast Galicia.”
- 6 October 2016: Tobago Division of the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce (TTCIC) and PATT meet in Tobago to discuss issues. TTCIC is told that dredging of the PoS port contract was awarded to a Dutch Company and that the PATT board and the Dutch company will meet in the next 2 weeks to discuss logistics. PATT Chairman acknowledges MOWT letter of 31 May 2017.
- 30 November 2016: Tobago Division of the TTCIC, PATT, MOWT and Minister Sinanan meeting. Minister indicates that a commitment for the SFG for 18 months is in place but nothing is signed as negotiations regarding the fees are ongoing, but the assured that the SFG is in place for 18 months. Tenders for more vessels have been issued. With regards the dredging it was confirmed that the Dutch company was given a letter informing that they had won the tender to dredge however a Cabinet note for the funds was not yet finalized.
- 2 December 2016 (2:58 PM): https://www.shippax.com/en/news/super-fast-galicia-to-return-to-spain.aspx MOWT & Minister Rohan Sinanan are emailed the above link regarding the SFG’s assignment for 22 May 2017.
- 2 December 2016 (5:31 PM): Sharon Imbert of the MOWT acknowledges receipt of the email.
- 12 December 2016: ICSL Managing Director John Powell meets and holds discussions with MOWT Minister Rohan Sinanan.
- 20 December 2016: In a follow-up to that meeting, ICSL writes to Minister Sinanan saying: “Thank you for the meeting on Monday 12 December 2016. It was a fruitful meeting and appreciate that you understand the challenges we have been encountering.” ICSL lists what they consider to be the many benefits of the SFG and advises that: “If awarded a long term contract (five years), ICSL could offer a reduced rate of 14,400 euros for the first 2 years, which is less than our previously tendered rates. Thereafter an incremental increase of 3% per annum on each remaining year of the contract.”
- 31 January to 02 February 2017: The SFG is out of service for re-flagging.
- 3 February 2017: ICSL’s Managing Director meet at the PATT with Mr Leon Grant, Ms Charmaine Lewis and Ms Marcia Charles. Minutes of this meeting are among the items requested by FIXIN’ T&T through the FOIA.
- 5 April 2017: Minister Sinanan meets with stakeholders in Tobago and describes the current sea bridge contractual arrangement as being “month to month.” Stakeholders make it clear that a barge will not be acceptable. Minister indicates that the idea of Atlantic Provider is a “non-issue” and simply “creative journalism.” It is suggested that an arrangement to keep SFG until October 2017 would allow time to secure replacement vessels.
- 28 April 2017: FIXIN’ T&T writes to Minister Sinanan expressing grave concern and to enquire on, among other things, why the 18-month contract extension for the SFG was never executed.
- 15 May 2017: In a telephone conversation with Minister Sinanan, FIXIN’ T&T’s Kirk Waithe enquires of him about the status of his response to FIXIN’ T&T’S Letter dated April 28, 2017. Minister Sinanan advises that said letter was passed on to Minister Stuart Young and a response should be forthcoming.
- 18 May 2017: In a brief exchange outside Parliament, FIXIN’ T&T’s Kirk Waithe asks Minister Sinanan why the 18-month contract extension for the SFG was never signed. Minister Sinanan advises that it was before his time so he knows nothing about it.
- 19 May 2017: FIXIN’ T&T’s Kirk Waithe phones Minister Hinds and asks why the 18-month contract extension for the SFG was never signed. Minister Hinds advises that he is no longer the Minister and has no information in front of or available to him so he is unable to assist.
Based on the above sequence of events, in addition to extensive other communication of which we are aware, FIXIN’ T&T has great difficulty in believing Minister Sinanan’s claims that the country was being held to ransom and was a victim of economic blackmail.
Above all, the facts outlined above contradict Minister Sinanan’s stated position that he only knew and understood that the SFG would be leaving when he received formal notice on 31 March 2017.
In our respectful view, the facts indicate that it was Ministers Sinanan and Hinds who were derelict in their duty. These two Ministers are directly responsible for the prolonged suffering to which the people of Tobago are being subjected.
By their failure, they have also caused significant damage to T&T’s international reputation in maritime affairs. They must be made to feel the full consequences of their failures.
The Tobago Division TTCIC and by extension the people of Tobago have clearly attempted to avert the current crisis by offering sensible and reasonable recommendations which seemingly fell on deaf ears and overbearing political egos. For all of their efforts, they are now left to endure the results of the miserable failings of the PATT Board and MOWT Ministers past and present.
As stated by a member of the Tobago Division of TTCIC during the April 5 meeting, “the people making the decisions are not affected by the decisions made.” Fixing that likely holds the key to sustainable solutions for both the sea and air bridge.