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Annisette: Minister at fault for ferry fiasco

Tuesday, September 19, 2017
SWWTU president Michael Annisette answers a question during yesterday’s Joint Select Committee meeting on the sea bridge.

Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan bears the blame for recent chaos caused by the Super Fast Galicia ferry’s exit from the Tobago sea bridge, says Seamen and Waterfront Workers’ Trade Union president Michael Annisette.

“The vessel left under your watch—you should be man enough to take responsibility for the chaos. You can’t allow a vessel to leave T&T without having another in place and become forced to get another at any cost!” Annisette added yesterday.

Answering queries from the Joint Select Committee examining the ferry service at the Parliament building in Port-of-Spain, Annisette also said it’s unheard of for a Port Authority of T&T (PATT) board member to negotiate for a vessel, as PATT deputy chairman Adrian Beharry said he did for the “Atlantic Provider” and “Trinity Transporter” barge.

“I was shocked he said so. Questions must be asked who owns the barge and what’s the relationship with the negotiator of the contract?” Annisette said.

The Atlantic Provider and Trinity Transporter vessel were also hired under Sinanan’s watch.

Annisette said the Super Fast Galicia went through the normal procurement process. But concerning the current ferry issues, he said a probe should be done on how T&T had signed a charter party agreement for a vessel not yet in territorial waters and without having done sea trials.

Annisette questioned why one of the recent vessels was a roll-on/roll-off vessel when the PATT needed a passenger vessel.

“This raises red flags. But this was calculated for this result,” he said.

He said he and SWWTU executive spoke to Sinanan, warning him of the consequences, including of not signing the charter party agreement. But he said Sinanan told them “nobody was holding this Government to ransom.”

Until someone explained why the agreement wasn’t signed, Annisette concluded it was Sinanan’s fault. He also revealed that four months before the PATT hired the Atlantic Provider, international shippers had told him the vessel was coming,”but we were operating a vessel we knew couldn’t carry passengers.”

Annisette noted that Sinanan had said there’d be no barge.

“But a certain Port board member was walking around with information on the barge in his computer,” he told the members.

Annisette said he’d expressed his concerns to another minister he knows personally and also someone who “had the Prime Minister’s ear.” But Annisette said he felt nobody listened since he was perceived as a dock worker from the “University of Docksford and not part of the elite.”

He added the MF Panorama would have tendered to return to work locally if given the opportunity to do so.

JSC member Franklin Khan said PATT performance indicators are below international standard and the sea bridge was “disastrous.”

Annisette also denied allegations of sexual advances regarding female employees of an SWWTU-run company providing services on ferries. He said similar allegations had been sent to former Tobago House of Assembly leader Orville London, who subsequently apologised to him when the matter was examined.


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