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Rowley calls meeting on seabridge

COREY CONNELLY Sunday, August 13 2017

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, currently on private business in Barbados, will meet next Monday with the main stakeholders in Tobago to address the Government’s “unsuccessful attempt” to find a replacement passenger ferry to service the sea bridge between Trinidad and Tobago.

A statement issued on Saturday from the Office of the Prime Minister, said the meeting will be held on August 21 at the ballroom of the Magdalena Grand Hotel, Lowlands, from 2 pm.

According to the statement, the meeting will include representatives from the Tobago Chamber of Commerce, Tobago Hoteliers and Tourism Association, Tobago Truckers Association, Tobago Unique Bread and Breakfast and Self-Catering Association.

Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan and Tobago MPs Shamfa Cudjoe and Ayanna Webster- Roy also are expected to attend the meeting.

The prime minister’s decision to meet with the key stakeholders on the island came just one day after he apologised for the Ocean Flower 11 fiasco which has been a major talking point within recent days.

Sinanan announced early last week that the contract for the vessel had been terminated.

The situation has posed a serious inconvenience to Tobago business owners and average travellers, who have long complained about the inefficiencies on the sea bridge.

Rowley, commenting on the cancellation of the Ocean Flower 11 contract on Friday, said, “The unsuccessful attempt to find a replacement passenger ferry is a matter of great disappointment to me and I am sure the majority of Tobagonians who rely on this service for their comfort and livelihood.” However, he assured that, “the Government is not unmindful of your plight and is currently engaged in making all reasonable efforts to remedy the situation in the short term.” Rowley also had made an appeal to all the people who are addressing the issues affecting TT’s “very vital inter island service, “to redouble the efforts, without compromising principles and within all contractual safeguards to ensure that an acceptable service is restored at the earliest opportunity.” Rowley, who is from Mason Hall, apologised to all affected citizens and “particularly the people of Tobago, for whom the service is more of a life line.” President of the Tobago Division of the TT Chamber of Commerce Demi John Cruickshank said the organisation welcomed the meeting.

“With the prime minister as the head of the government of Trinidad and Tobago, I think is about time he took control of this crisis that has been affecting the economy and the travelling public between Trinidad and Tobago” he told Sunday Newsday.

Cruickshank said he hoped the Ocean Flower controversy and the longstanding woes on the sea bridge would not be the only items on the agenda “because the air bridge is of similar concern to us in Tobago.” “So, yes, we look forward to the meeting and we hope that within a very short space of time we can solve this situation that has occurred in Tobago and is now causing havoc with the travelling public between the two islands,” he added.

Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister and Tobago East MP Ayanna Webster-Roy also welcomed the meeting.

Webster-Roy said she and her constituents also have been affected by the situation sand were hoping for a “reasonably timely solution to the problems on the sea bridge as well as the air bridge.” In April, the owners of the Super Fast Galicia withdrew its services on the seabridge which it had operated since 2014. The subsequent lease of the MV Transporter barge and the MV Provider to transport goods and provide passenger services was shortlived, due to the high cost and slow pace of the vessels.

In July, the Port Authority announced the lease of the Cabo Star, which is in service, and the Ocean Flower II from Canada’s Bridgemans Service Group which faltered in delivering the Ocean Flower II by an extended August 1 deadline. However, on Friday, the Opposition disclosed a letter from an engineer which cited technical problems with the Ocean Flower II after sea trial in Panama, deeming it unfit for sailing.



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