After several days of testimony on the Tobago ferry fiasco by the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association has been given no indication of when the sea bridge crisis will end says its vice president Carol Ann Birchwood-James.
“Bay Ferries maintenance contract was cancelled and millions of dollars were saved. We ask and our members asked, ‘To whose benefit?’”
Speaking to the Joint Select Committee on Land and Physical Infrastructure yesterday on the procurement of the MV Cabo Star and Ocean Flower 2 and the operations of the Port of Port of Spain, Birchwood-James thanked Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley for his apology made on Monday to the people of Tobago for the current crisis situation they are experiencing in relation to the passenger ferry service. “The fast ferry is no longer fast,” she said.
On the cancellation of Bay Ferries contract which was replaced by Magellan Services Limited with no maintenance component, Birchwood-James said, “There lies the problems with the ferry.”
The ferry, she said, could not leave the Tobago yesterday morning as scheduled because of maintenance problems. Passengers then flocked to the Caribbean Airlines Limited (CAL) ticketing counter to see if they could get seats to travel to Trinidad.
The Superfast Galicia, she said, departed with no replacement, there were conflicting testimonies at the JSC from all parties involved and evidence of many episodes of bad corporate governance.
“Public servants, past and present ministers in questioning want to be politically correct when questioned. No real answers. We are yet to hear words that they have Tobago and Tobagonians best interest at heart,” she said.
The dependency of Tobago on Trinidad “on what many in Tobago calls a ‘hostage situation’,” she said, must end.
The solutions for the short, medium and long terms, put forward by the association, she said, if adopted would allow Tobago to meaningfully in developing in the economy of TT.
On the procurement of a new vessel, the association’s president, Christopher James said, there was no involvement by the association in the procurement process to date and no one from the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (PATT), Ministry of Works and Transport, or the Tobago House of Assembly to reach out to get the association’s input before tenders for the new vessel start coming in. The deadline for submission of tenders ended yesterday.
It was noted also that even though Tobago has asked for additional places on the boards of PATT and the CAL, there has been no response on this issue.
The lack of response, the association’s secretary Shirley Cooke said, means that “they do not have a grasp of the enormity of the problems we are experiencing in Tobago. We should not be seen as the ward of Trinidad.”