Three men were charged last week with stealing 19 electrical motors and a generator. In December, a break-in at two of Petrotrin’s compounds in Forest Reserve and Santa Flora revealed thefts of copper wire, a computer, a power washer and an electrical transformer. The debris of the oil refinery and its assets, now the property of its successor, Heritage Petroleum Company Limited, is vast and sprawling. The task of securing this vast estate now falls to officers from the private security firm Amalgamated Security, who are still learning the massive reality of the corpus of assets now under their purview.
Spread across vast acreages in south Trinidad, it was clear even when the company was fully in operation, Petrotrin itself wasn’t fully aware of all the assets under its control.
Amalgamated’s officers must also contend with acts of sabotage, four of which have already been reported to the police, incidents of damage which seem designed to add to the mix of uncertainty and confusion that has attended the closure of the state oil refinery and the establishment of its successor companies.
These circumstances are, at least partly, an unfortunate legacy of the speed of Petrotrin’s shuttering, but these assets are not only the property of TT citizens; they are the best hope that Heritage Petroleum has of salvaging some return from the collapse of Petrotrin.
These incidents are only the first shocks that are likely to follow from the problematic methods that hallmarked the shutdown of the company, alienating thousands of workers, some of whom were reduced to protest action to get their promised payments. These are workers who might have played a part in a smoother, less rocky closure who have been cast in an adversarial role with the industry they have worked in far too many cases, for their entire lives.
The National Insurance Board has already acknowledged that its fund will take a hit to the tune of more than $8 million per month because of the refinery’s closure. Unions representing Petrotrin and TSTT who also implemented staff cuts, are likely to have suffered membership drops that may ultimately affect the quality of their representation.
Over two nights, beginning last night, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley will offer a report to the nation on his government’s stewardship of state business operations. The core of that business is the management of the assets and resources, both mineral and human, of this country and the government’s plans should reflect a more coherent implementation of that responsibility. Before there can be a bold new beginning for Heritage Petroleum, the sour end of Petrotrin must be managed more effectively.