FERDIE TO TELL ALL ON GALACIA DEAL
Parliament’s Joint Select Committee on Land and Rural Development want answers on the maintenance and management of the sea bridge service.
The T&T Guardian has been told that as part of its investigation into the procurement of the Cabo Star and the Ocean Flower 2 the Committee wants to "understand" how the ferry service got to the point which it has.
While the Cabo Star is working the sea bridge the charter for the Ocean Flower 2 was cancelled for failing to arrive on time.
The Committee also wants answers on the maintenance and management of the vessels which have been operating the sea bridge will commence proceedings on September 4.
In its invitation to former Port Commissioner Ferdie Ferreira, the Committee said it wanted to determine "whether due diligence governed the conduct of all aspects of the maintenance and management of the provisions of the sea bridge service and to determine the changes and challenges with respect to the maintenance of the ferries."
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley had expressed concern in Parliament about the contract which had been entered into with Bay Ferries valued at US$7 million a year, questioning whether the country had gotten value for the money spent on the contract in the 11-year period.
The Bay Ferries contract for the maintenance of the vessels ended last year and Ferreira said in his written submissions to the committee he will be explaining why he pushed for the contract to be brought to an end.
He will also be explaining, he said, why a former member of the board of the Port Authority supported the request for an 18-month extension on the MV Super Fast Galicia, the vessel which had been serving the sea bridge without problems, since 2014.
Currently, the T&T Express is the lone passenger vessel servicing the route and is supplemented as needed by the Water Taxi Service. The T&t Spirit was taken out of service in June for repairs and maintenance with a promise that it would have been brought back into service in July. However, the vessel remains in dry dock while parts are being sourced for it.
The T&T Express is also expected to go on dry dock before November.
President of the Inter-Island Truckers and Traders Association Horace Amede said the association had been invited to appear before the committee to speak about the ferry service.
He said all he wants to see at the end of the day is that "we get two proper working fast ferries and a proper cargo vessel, we will be happy with that."
Truckers have in the past complained about a number of problems on the Cabo Star which they say is overrun by rats and rodents, problems with the toilets and the air condition, and there is no cafeteria for them to purchase water or meals.
But in a statement, the Port said since the introduction of the Cabo Star the transportation of passengers, drivers, cargo and vehicles "has returned too a regular and reliable service between the islands."
The Port said its data reflects that there is "excess capacity on the sea bridge," and it is encouraging citizens to utilise the vessels available.
With the cancellation of the Ocean Flower 2, the Port Authority yesterday published in the daily newspapers an invitation to "duly qualified agents, brokers or vessel representatives" to tender for the supply of a roll on/roll off passenger fast ferry on a two year time charter, with the option to renew for one year.
The deadline for sealed tenders is September 20.
There is a marked difference in the process. The Port said tenders will be opened publicly at 2.15 pm on the same day (September 20).
It said late submissions will not be accepted and it reserved the right to cancel the tender process at any time.
Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan told the T&T Guardian he will be taking a "deeper interest" in the process this time around.
The process for the procurement of the Cabo Star and the Ocean Flower 2 is now under investigation by businessman Christian Moutett the sole investigator appointed by the Prime Minister, the Integrity Commission, and the Port Authority.
Bridgemans Services Ltd has maintained that the procurement of the vessels was in keeping with international practice and they did nothing wrong.