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Rowley: Over US$28m paid down on fast ferries

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Chief Whip and Minister of Planning and Development Camille Robinson-Regis focus their attention towards Finance Minister Colm Imbert alongside Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi at yesterday’s sitting of the Lower House of Parliament in Port of Spain. PHOTO BY ROGER JACOB.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Chief Whip and Minister of Planning and Development Camille Robinson-Regis focus their attention towards Finance Minister Colm Imbert alongside Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi at yesterday’s sitting of the Lower House of Parliament in Port of Spain. PHOTO BY ROGER JACOB.

THE PRIME Minister has reported that the National Infrastructure Development Company (NIDCO) has so far paid down more than US$28 million on fast ferries from Australian companies Austal and Incat.

Dr Rowley was delivering a statement in Parliament yesterday on the Government’s successful procurement of two passenger fast ferries from the Australian shipbuilders Incat and Austal and two Cape Class Patrol vessels from Austal for the TT Coast Guard.

He reported, as at January 7,NIDCO had paid Austal the sum of US $8,148,000 with US$7,148,000 being the ten per cent down payment for the fast ferry and US$1 million being the scheduled acceleration payment. Also as at January 7, NIDCO paid INCAT US$15,595,400, with US$14,595,400 being the 20 per cent down payment for the fast ferry and US$1 million the booking fee.

“Only today a further sum of US$5,361,000 has been paid to Austal for the ordering of the engines for the fast ferries,” he said.

Rowley said Government was pursuing financing arrangements with EFIC, the Australian government’s export credit agency, which arranges financing for the purchase of Australian products for export, for the vessels.

“Madam Speaker, as is to be expected, there are further sums which will become due under the contractual arrangements going forward until the completion of the vessels.”

Rowley provided a detailed breakdown of the aquisition of the vessels including: his meeting with then Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull on the margins of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London in April 2018; the TT delegation visiting Austal shipyard in Perth and Incat shipyard; the TT Defence Force producing a report dated July 3, 2018 saying the Cape Class Patrol vessels “would be quite appropriate for operation within the TT Coast Guard (TTCG)”; and on June 21, 2018 the establishment of a Cabinet-appointed evaluation committee to review the proposals received from Incat and Austal.

“As is evident, at every step of the way, this Government has been transparent in how it has conducted itself. There have been several levels of evaluation and negotiations with INCAT and Austal, and at every step of the way, the Government has informed the public of its actions and decisions, unlike what transpired between 2010 and 2015.

He said the previous government did not inform the public that it was procuring vessels for the TTCG from Damen and financing was not properly in place. He said the procurement of CG60, the Chinese vessel purchased for the TTCG, was even worse.

“There was no proper evaluation as to the suitability of the vessel for the TTCG and there was no financing in place for the payment for the vessel. As far, as we are aware, the Chinese vessel was procured by the former prime minister on a whim, seeing a vessel in China and declaring that she ‘wanted one like that.’ It also fell to this Government to determine financing arrangements and to complete negotiations and pay for this vessel after it was delivered to us here.”

He added: “So...to have the Opposition questioning the procurement of the two ordered fast ferries and the two Cape Class Patrol vessels from INCAT and Austal and to have them bringing the country into disrepute by writing to the attorney general of Australia making completely unfounded and spurious allegations is quite difficult to swallow, knowing fully well how they conducted themselves before.”

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