The passenger vessel Ocean Flower II for which Government entered into a charter party agreement for the Tobago sea bridge, then cancelling it earlier this month, will arrive in Port of Spain at any time says former transport minister Stephen Cadiz.
The vessel was tracked to Curacao today having left Colon, Panama yesterday and mooring on the Dutch island this morning.
“The vessel is in Curacao. I can only assume it is en route to Port of Spain. Other than that there is not reason for it to be heading east,” he said.
He assumed, “that she went into Curacao to refuel because she does not have that amount of fuel capacity to make these long runs.”
Otherwise, the vessel, he said, could have stayed in Panama until the owners decide what they will do with it.
The vessel, he said, travelled from Panama at about 14 knots an hour even though it has a capacity to travel at 35 knots an hour.
The charter party agreement, he said, protects the charterer and the owners of the boat, and provides for a late clause and a non-delivery clause.
With no public reports on the dealings, he said, “The owners of the ferry could be very well saying that ‘Yes. We know we are late and we are going to pay the penalty as stipulated but we will deliver’.”
He said, “That is where the issue of non-delivery comes into play. If I am in a contract with you, if I am late in my delivery, it does not say I am not delivering. That does not constitute cancellation of contract.”
However, he noted that the details of the contract were not made public.
Following the cancellation of the contract by Government, representatives of Bridgeman’s Services Group which leased the the Ocean Flower 2, met with representatives of the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago and offered to service the sea bridge for two weeks without pay.
Cadiz does not know, he said, how Government is going to get out of the issue except to say “sorry” to stakeholders, especially the people of Tobago.
“They are in a real pickle with these boats. You can’t pick up a phone and the boat arrives in the morning. These boat take weeks and months before you can get access to one,” he said.
The cancellation of the contract has led to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley appointing business executive Christian Mouttet to investigate the procurement of Ocean Flower 2 and the cargo vessel Cabo Star both of which were leased by Bridgeman’s. He is expected to deliver his report in 30 days from the date of appointment. Meanwhile, a joint select committee of the Parliament is expected to hold an inquiry into the procurement of the vessels. The Integrity Commission has also been asked to investigate the issue.