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What an Embarrassment

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Whoever is responsible for the calamitous state of the sea bridge, the inconvenience to those who depend on it—on both islands—and the repeated public embarrassment of the Prime Minister, given the number of times he has had to apologise for the issue, is not just incompetent, but their actions and transactions appear to be bordering on both the absurd and the criminal.

If this was an attempt at personal gain, it was sloppy and grossly miscalculated. The people of this country aren’t to be taken for fools, if they are inconvenienced for a prolonged period without adequate answers and a proper plan, political affiliations and loyalty become irrelevant.

That the Prime Minister is about to personally travel to Tobago to have another conversation with stakeholders there over the latest development is embarrassing, but must be done since he obviously does not have the right people in place dealing with this issue. The last time we checked, the Port Authority chairman was still on vacation, and the line minister was defending himself from the onslaught of online allegations about culpability. So while they’ve been struggling to pad up (cricket metaphor), Dr Rowley himself is up to bat.

At the back of his mind though, must be how and why he has found himself in clean-up mode yet again and how much longer he will have to make up for the incompetence or possible malice of whoever caused this.

Media reports yesterday indicated that the PATT’s chief engineer gave the vessel a failing grade after identifying serious mechanical problems during vessel testing in Panama. In the presence of those who represented Bridgemans, issues ranging from engine failure, fire hazards and what another report is describing as a potential explosive defect, were identified.

What is troubling is that no vessel maintenance records can be found for the vessel. It means there is no way to tell what’s gone wrong in the past, how long ago it happened, and what’s at risk next in terms of the need for new parts or upgrades. For a vessel over 20 years old, it’s a blind transaction.

The bottom line for us is this: before any major financial transaction or investment, a proper ‘scrub’ or due diligence of what you intend to invest in, must be done. If it’s not done properly, you end up with a bad investment with the potential to lose a lot. It’s simple, basic business practice.

So who was responsible for doing the Bridgemans’ scrub? If it was done properly, everything from ownership to seaworthiness, maintenance history and the curious time-line in the acquisition of services of both these vessels (Ocean Flower II and Cabo Star), would have been flagged. One of the vessels was leased just one week after Bridgemans, a privately owned company, acquired it. What’s the history on this vessel, who owned it before, and why weren’t the mechanical issues picked up even by Bridgemans? Who stood to benefit the most from a boat that came this far, for us to determine it was unfit to serve our needs?

The fact that Bridgemans “doesn’t agree” with the cancellation of the contract is their own business. Our business is the multi-million dollar taxpayer investment in a contract that was even signed in the first place, for a vessel that won’t work.


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