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Thursday 14 December 2017
Politics

PATT: SWWTU firm gets $1.4M per month to upkeep ferries

Energy Minister Franklin Khan, a member of the JSC, makes a point during the sitting yesterday.

Some $1.4 million per month is paid to a firm owned by the Seamen and Waterfront Workers Trade Union (SWWTU) to supply cleaning and catering services for two passenger ferries, revealed Port Authority of TT (PATT) chairman Alison Lewis, yesterday to a parliamentary joint select committee (JSC) probing the acquisition of ferries for the Tobago to Trinidad seabridge.

Moreso these monthly payments are made even when either of the ferries is in dry dock for lengthy periods. Further, Lewis said the PATT actually pays part of the cost of the food provided and of the company’s wage-bill.

Newsday was unable to contact SWWTU head Michael Annisette to inquire about that company, Port Workers and Private Sector Manning Limited.

She revealed the PATT is paying $266,000 towards the company’s wage-bill and $35,000 for crew meals, on top of the $703,000 paid for each of the two ferries, the latter totalling $1.4 million. Energy Minister Franklin Khan said, “So what are you paying this company for?”.

Lamenting that the PATT is paying “a hefty cost for a limited amount of service”, he said when the committee digs a bit deeper it unearths new revelations. Khan quipped, “Houston, we have a problem.”

When Lewis said the current contract for these services was an extension of a previous contract, Khan bemoaned that contractors are practicing this too often under PATT. “You find a door ajar and you are not coming out.”

On Lewis revealing that the SWWTU owns the company, Khan pressed her if she was comfortable with that arrangement, to which she replied, “It’s a situation that presents some difficulty.”

Opposition Senator Wade Mark urged the committee to question Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on his remarks that the failed leasing of the Ocean Flower II seemed crooked.

Mark dubbed the deal an “extraordinary and irregular activity where his Cabinet became a rubber stamp.” Mark’s upset arose at revelations that the deals (known as charter-parties) to lease two ferries (Ocean Flower II and Cabo Star) were signed on June 17, ahead of the June 20 minute by Cabinet approving the former ship and the June 30 Cabinet note and July 2 Cabinet minute to approve the latter ship. “I’d have thought that for US$50,000 or TT$350,000 per day on two vessels, Cabinet would have to had approved that before,” he said.

Mark said his research suggested Bridgeman’s owned no vessels prior to them winning the seabridge contract on June 17.

Lewis disagreed by saying they owned a couple of vessels (if not fast ferries) and Mark asked her to supply such details in writing.

Earlier Lewis revealed the PATT had paid a mobilisation fee and the first month of fees for charter hire for the Cabo Star, but no committee member asked the size of these sums.

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