Energy Minister Franklin Khan yesterday questioned how attorney Nyree Alfonso was recruited under the former People's Partnership (PP) government in 2013 to find a replacement for the MV Warrior Spirit and her law firm joined a group of companies which tendered for that replacement vessel. Khan also asked how Inter-Continental Shipping Limited (ICSL), which was not invited to tender for that vessel, ended up replacing Alfonso's firm and winning the bid. He said this resulted in the procurement of the Super Fast Galicia which replaced the Warrior Spirit on the domestic seabridge. ICSL are the brokers for the Galicia which is owned by the company Trans-Med.
Khan posed these questions to the Port Authority's board of directors as the Parliament's Land and Physical Infrastructure Joint Select Committee (JSC) continued its enquiry into the domestic seabridge at Tower D of the Port-of-Spain International Waterfront Centre. Describing the situation as "curiouser and curiouser," Khan told Port chairman Alison Lewis, "If that my dear lady, is not at best impropriety, I don't know what is."
In response to Khan's questions, Lewis said Alfonso was retained by the former transport ministry in 2013 to assist with the procurement of a replacement for the Warrior Spirit. She said Alfonso was eventually, "was invited to identify vessels that had been available. TT Inter-Island Transport Company acting CEO Leon Grant recalled that Alfonso was asked to, "in trying to find an urgent replacement" for the Warrior Spirit.
Lewis confirmed that Alfonso's firm was one of nine companies listed to tender on a selective tender process for a cargo vessel. Grant did not remember Alfonso ever, "being invited by the (port) management to tender for any ferry." However Khan told him, "That is a fact." Khan also said Alfonso's firm submitted a July 18, 2014 invoice for $840,750 for its services, to the Port. Indicating that this invoice was paid, Khan said part of the invoice billed the Port for, "conferences and negotiations with Mr (John) Powell of ICSL."
Lewis confirmed to the JSC that ICSL was not invited by the Port to tender for a cargo vessel. However she agreed with Khan that ICSL submitted the winning tender. When Khan asked how this happened, Lewis said an examination of the records, "saw an instance where ICSL replaced Miss Alfonso." Khan said supported his information that ICSL acted as an agent for Alfonso's law firm. .The minister asked what kind of due diligence, "was done here to include on the list, somebody who obviously had a conflict of interest?" Khan said the problem was Alfonso, "being an advisor on the very process that her company was bidding on."Lewis replied, "The persons who would have made that decision are no longer at the Port Authority." She confirmed to the JSC that ICS was not invited by the port to tender for a cargo vessel. Khan said Alfonso will be questioned further on this issue when she appears before the committee
In response to questions from Toco/Manzanilla MP Glenda Jennings Smith, Grant confirmed visiting Gibraltar with the Port's chief engineer to examine the Galicia. He said there were no technical difficulties with the ship but only problem was no proper berth for it in Port-of-Spain. Grant also said a ramp and a barge had to be used to load cargo on to the Galicia. On visiting Panama to inspect the Ocean Flower 2 passenger ferry, Grant said he and the chief engineer made certain observations about the vessel. He said these were submitted in a report to the Authority.