President of the Tobago Chamber of Commerce Demi John Cruickshank, is calling for the resignation of members of the Port Authority Board, declaring as “utter foolishness” their
failure to source a passenger ferry for the sea bridge over the last year.
“It is clear that the Port Authority Board is incompetent and not capable of carrying out the functions that they are required to carry out, and I think strongly that the Port Authority members on that board should all hand in their resignations as of today, (Friday) because this is utter foolishness and to see we have to get Parliamentarians to now sit and select a boat to go back and give themselves it to vet, makes no sense in our book,” said Cruickshank.
Cruickshank position follows last Thursday’s revelation by Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young that the tender process engaged in by the Port over the last several weeks has failed to source a ferry for the sea bridge.
Speaking at last Thursday’s post-Cabinet news conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, Young asaid Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has mandated a four-member Cabinet sub-committee, which includes Young, and Finance Minister Colm Imbert, Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte and Tourism
Minister Shamfa Cudjoe to take find a ferry in the shortest possible time.
Cruickshank said the entire business community in Tobago was totally disappointed that the Government cannot bring a resolution to the ferry fiasco.
“We have been patient, and what we did is put our trust in the Government that the Government will do the right thing. It has been going close to a year now and we are having this serious problem with inter-island transportation, especially the ferry system.
“It is clear that somebody in Trinidad is not understanding or somebody just doesn't care what is happening with the economy and the business sector in Tobago. The Tobago economy depends on the movement of people between Trinidad and Tobago, primarily by the sea bridge and to have this operation in limbo so long, is an indictment on the Government as they clearly do not understand the serious and negative impact that this is having on the economy,” he said.
Head of the Chamber’s Inter-island Transport Committee, Dianne Hadad, noting Young’s statements, wondered “where does that leave Tobago?”
“We were promised that the fast ferry issue was going to be resolved… the T&T Spirit is down in Chaguaramas, the T&T Express is limping and taking close to five hours to do a one-way journey. We were promised a fast ferry by July this year, we are now heading into December and there is no fast ferry.
“More importantly, there is no communication with us from the Port management, the Board of Directors, from the THA, the Ministry or the Minister of Transport and from the Cabinet and the government body that governs Trinidad and Tobago at this point in time. We have had no communication as to what is going on. Tenders recently done were cancelled again … we are going back to the drawing board but where does that leave Tobago?” she asked.
On August 8, Government cancelled the contract for Bridgemans’ Services, passenger ferry Ocean Flower 2, with Works Minister Rohan Sinanan saying the boat had missed
its deadline, and extended deadline. Reports are that Bridgemans participated in the subsequent new open competitive tender, in which a reportedly five companies offered 13 vessels, with four making a shortlist.
A week ago, Port Authority Chairman Alison Lewis told Newsday Tobago that recommendations for a passenger fast ferry for sea bridge was submitted to Sinanan who would review them and take it to Cabinet.
Contacted for comment last Friday, Sinanan told Newsday Tobago: “I did receive the recommendation... what the recommendation said is that they could not recommend any of the vessels that were submitted. So, it is that they cancelled the tender because based on the submissions that they had, they could not recommend any.”
Attempts to reach Lewis on Friday for clarification were unsuccessful.