Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan last night declared, "The chips must fall where they may so the truth can prevail in this matter." Sinanan made this declaration when he appeared before the Land and Physical Infrastructure joint select committee (JSC) at Tower D of the Port-of-Spain International Waterfront Centre. Questioned about the procurement of the Cabo Star cargo vessel and Ocean Flower 2 passenger ferry for the domestic seabridge, Sinanan said, "In no way would I be involved in procurement. I have played no role in procurement of any vessel."
The minister also said contrary to claims made by certain people, no charter party agreement for any vessel was signed before Cabinet approval. Responding to questions from JSC chairman Stephen Creese and Opposition Senator Wade Mark on this issue, Sinanan said the documents the committee were seeing were ratifications of the approval he alluded to. He said the ministry would prove the JSC with further clarity if necessary. "The Minister has nothing to do with the signing of any charter party agreement," he added.
Sinanan said after assuming office last November, it became apparent that the port and ferry service, "were heading for a crisis." Expressing confidence that the new Port Authority board would address the problems facing the port, Sinanan reminded JSC members that Cabinet appointed a three man investigative committee to review the operations of the port. He also disclosed that a sea sector expert will soon be engaged to assist in this exercise.
Sinanan said the problems with the TT Spirit and TT Express were the result of poor maintenance over the years. "This is an experience for the country that we need to pay attention to maintenance." He said in some countries, aluminium hull vessels (like the Spirit and Express) are taken out of service once they pass 15 years. He described the situation with the Super Fast Galicia as as case of "commercial advantage" where the provider threatened to pull the vessel out of service if a certain arrangement was not agreed to.
Sinanan confirmed the former port board chaired by Christine Sahadeo never approved a five year extension for the Galicia. He also confirmed the request for that extension came from the port's management. Sinanan said he was not prepared to commit the country extending the Galicia's contract at a cost of over $200 million, "without a tendering process. He also said the Galicia's abrupt departure in April had to to do with unresolved issues since 2014 under the then People's Partnership government. Sinanan referred to a letter from Inter-Continental Shipping Limited, brokers for the Galicia, to support this statement. Sinanan also said the Cabo Star cargo vessel cost less than the Galicia.
Sinanan said Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley may have more information to support his comment about something being crooked in the procurement of the Ocean Flower 2. He said he awaited the findings of all investigations into this matter. Sinanan supported his Cabinet colleague Fitzgerald Hinds' defence of Sahadeo. He said it was "not nice" for people to make derogatory comments about the people they serve alongside with, when they demit public office. He said this would cause people to think twice about offering themselves for public service. Earlier in the proceedings, Mark claimed Sinanan was being reluctant as a witness before the JSC. He also claimed Sinanan made a comment which could be interpreted as a witchhunt of another individual who appeared before the JSC.