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Planning and Sustainable Development Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie has agreed to meet with three business groups who have expressed major concerns over the port rationalisation study on which plans for construction of a US$500 million transshipment port at La Brea are based.
The joint grouping of stakeholder business associations—the Shipping Association of T&T (SATT), T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce and the T&T Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA)—asked for the meeting to discuss concerns they had expressed in a letter to Tewarie. In a brief media release, the joint grouping confirmed that the meeting will take place and expressed “every confidence that this consultative meeting would result in a better understanding of the concerns expressed.”
Details of the meeting date, venue and specific issues to be discussed were not revealed. However, a few weeks ago the SATT issued a statement warning that construction of another containerised port could negative affect the growth and potential of the country’s existing ports at Port-of-Spain and Point Lisas. The group said transshipment in the region was already ultra-competitive and said there were already serious concerns about impending port overcapacity regionally due to the various plans for port expansions.
The SATT statement continued: “Additionally, the competition for the relatively small amounts of local and transshipment regional cargo could ultimately affect the viability of one or more ports. Investments may be better spent on expanding existing infrastructure and facilities thus reducing development costs and also reducing operational resource requirements to the country, and exploiting economies of scale.”
The group recommended that Government hold consultations with major stakeholders in the industry and a do “significant feasibility study” before embarking on the project. Government has already engaged China Harbor Engineering Company Limited (CHEC), a subsidiary of China Communications Construction Company Ltd (CCCC), to do a feasibility study on establishment of the new transshipment port with dry docking facilities at La Brea.
The port rationalisation study which inspired plans for the proposed facility was commissioned by the Economic Development Board of the Planning Ministry and funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The study was conducted between December and March. Tewarie recently announced that Cabinet had approved the recommendation for construction of the port. He said the project will create hundreds of jobs for residents in the area.
The La Brea port will focus on ship repairs and transshipment of goods and will be a public/private initiative. Tewarie said the port rationalisation study showed that the port in Port-of-Spain was the “least competitive and least productive” of the country’s existing ports and while Point Lisas was significantly better, it was “not up to the level of global efficiencies.”