BUSINESSMAN Harry Ragoonanan joined a news briefing held by former UNC Cabinet member Devant Maharaj and attorney Nyree Alfonso, at the latter’s law office in Port of Spain, to add his voice to concerns about government’s procurement of vessels.
Ragoonanan, a reputed financier of the People’s National Movement (PNM) who was suspended by that party pending a probe into the Public Service Transport Corporation (PTSC), queried the suitability of the MV Galleons Passage to service the seabridge and the State’s impending purchase of two Coast Guard patrol vessels from Australian shipbuilder, Austal.
Ragoonanan said the Galleons Passage is “a disaster waiting to happen.” He said it is just 74 metres long, less than the 80 to 90 metres between successive sea-swells that occur between Tobago and Trinidad. “It will be rock and roll all the way to Tobago.”
“People are going to be sick on this vessel,” he said of Galleons Passage. "We are in a very bad place at this time.” Alfonso alleged the vessel will bob up and down and from side to side, to passengers’ great discomfort. On the country’s existing fast ferries, Ragoonanan said, “My information is the TT Express will not come back out (from dry-dock.) It will be prohibitively expensive to repair her.”
Regarding the patrol boats, Ragoonanan said the Austal ships do not possess wave-piercing technology that characterises boats built by rival firm Incat which give a smooth ride. Maharaj said he has written to Australian Attorney General Christian Porter, plus the Australian parliamentary opposition and an integrity watchdog body called Austrac.
In his letter to Porter, Maharaj urged the Australian AG to investigate the TT Government’s proposed purchase of two patrol vessels from Austal by way of a loan of Aus$100 million from the Australian Government. He alleged this transaction is being done without a procurement process, tendering, naval expertise or legal authority, but simply at the behest of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on his recent visit to Australia.
Alfonso said four patrol vessels bought by TT from Austal have suffered galvanic corrosion, amidst claims that firm allegedly has a poor record of servicing the vessels it has sold, included alleged dissatisfaction by Australia’s New South Wales Police Force. The MV Galleons Passage is yet to be operationalised.