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Lewis: No politics involved

Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Flashback April 2017— Former Port Authority chairman Alison Lewis and Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan after Lewis was appointed at the Office of the President. PICTURE ANISTO ALVES

Former Port Authority chairman Alison Lewis has dismissed reports that her decision to quit was as a result of political interference.

“I see this thing all over the papers about political interference,” but she urged people “who want to make political mileage” out of her resignation to “please stop it.”

She, however, admitted to being frustrated by “the process and the time it takes to get anything done.”

The former Port chair, speaking during an interview on i95.5 fm yesterday, said she was satisfied that she had done her best in the just under 12 months which she held the position.

People close to Lewis, a former permanent secretary at the Ministry of Finance, told the T&T Guardian that Lewis, as chairman of the Port, was kept “completely out of the loop” on what was happening with the Galleons Passage.” The vessel was sourced and purchased at a cost of US$17.4 M through Cabinet committee, headed by Finance Minister Colm Imbert and included Shamfa Cudjoe, Robert Le Hunte and Stuart Young.

At press time, the vessel was nearing a port at Yokohama, Japan where special fuel tanks will be installed to facilitate the trans-Pacific journey to T&T. It is expected to arrive by the end of April.

Under Lewis’ watch at least three attempts were made to secure a passenger ferry for the seabridge failed, and in November last year the Cabinet under Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley decided to remove the responsibility for acquiring a passenger ferry from the remit of Lewis and the Board of the Port Authority, and an inter-ministerial team was appointed to get the job done.

The PM announced weeks later that the Imbert-led team had found a vessel in Asia which the Government had purchased it.

The T&T Guardian was told that Lewis last week met with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley when she laid her cards on the table. But this newspaper was unable to ascertain whether she submitted her resignation to the Prime Minister or the line Minister responsible for the Port— Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan.

On Friday, rumours were rife that Lewis had tendered her resignation following a meeting of the Port Board.

When asked by the media about the resignation on Saturday, Sinanan admitted he had “heard” of the resignation but had not seen the letter. Sinanan subsequently spoke with her but Lewis remained adamant that her resignation with immediate effect stood.

The deputy chairman is Adrian Beharry. Other Port Commissioners are Suzette Beharry, Tommy Elias, Dexter Jaggernauth, Brandon Primus and Ainsworth Mohammed. None of them has resigned.

The tenure of the Lewis-led Board has been marred by recurring problems on the seabridge, which are yet to be resolved.

The T&T Express, the lone passenger ferry, which has been operating the route for the past 10 months was taken out of service for the crucial Carnival weekend after an extension on its class certificates for operation expired, leaving the seabridge without a passenger ferry.

The vessel eventually returned to service in late February but experienced mechanical problems last week resulting in cancellations to its sailing schedule. But the Port now faces a situation where the class certificates expired at midnight last night.

Unless a further extension of class certificates is granted by Norwegian-based international accreditors DNV TT Ltd, the T&T Express will be taken out of service.

If this happens it means there will be no passenger ferry to service the seabridge.

The T&T Spirit, which has been on dry-dock since June last year, is not ready to resume service.

The Port had hoped that the vessel which underwent sea trials two weeks ago would have been ready to resume service today. But well-placed sources told the T&T Guardian that after spending more than $70 million on parts and repairs the recent sea trials did not go as planned.

Last Friday, Finance Minister Colm Imbert told reporters in Tobago that Caribbean Airlines had been asked to “charter a specific aircraft to use on the Tobago route over the next few months or so,” under a similar arrangement as over the Carnival period to transport passengers at no additional cost.


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