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Another Sea Bridge Fiasco
Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan’s decision to cancel the contract of the Ocean Flower II following its failure to arrive in Trinidad and Tobago within the agreed period, is of little solace to travellers hoping for overdue relief on the sea bridge.
The series of events which led to the contract breach is now being reviewed not just at a Government level, but in the public domain. Given what has transpired, the minister has to bite the bullet and make another crucial decision, whether to continue the second contract with Bridgemans Services Group—owner of the Cabo Star, as well.
Newspaper reports suggest that an international services company has been unable to find much about Bridgemans and there seems to be no trace of the provision of, or experience with ferry services. The complication for the minister of course is this, the Cabo Star, at least up to this point, appears to be adequately fulfilling its role conveying cargo between the islands.
Communication with Bridgemans appears to be a problem in general. The provider appeared to be not very forthcoming with disclosure of the condition and status of the Ocean Flower II on its delayed journey; the vessel missed its arrival deadline and is still docked in Panama, with reports of questionable performance and operational worthiness being scrutinised. The owners are yet to answer questions about the situation. Doubts which were previously raised about the Cabo Star appeared to have been put to rest once the vessel began operation. At this point, questions about the Ocean Flower II may never be answered.
The disturbing part of the situation, however, is once again this: was sufficient due diligence done on Bridgemans and its vessels before contracts were signed and taxpayers’ dollars pledged. The issue has put the Transport Minister in an embarrassing situation and questions are now being asked about the competence of the Port Authority of T&T.
The lessons which should have been learned from the experience of the Super Fast Galicia should have prompted the PATT to ensure better vetting processes were in place with the Bridgemans deal. So have taxpayer funds been properly managed? The cost of the replacement vessels was listed at $54 million annually compared to the $34 million spent on the Galicia. With that amount of money on the line, are taxpayers satisfied with how recent events have unfolded?
The PATT’s management of the matter was not satisfactory on this issue. The fact that the sea bridge is still not well served, is inexcusable. The new board had a mandate to ensure transparency going forward. They seemed to have missed the mark on this matter.
While the Minister has fully endorsed the decision of the board to cancel the contract with the Ocean Flower II, there are more decisions to be reviewed and actions to be taken. It is therefore in Minister Sinanan’s and the PATT board chairman’s best interest to seek to provide full disclosure on how the Ocean Flower II missed the mark, and why.