Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine is reiterating no licence has been granted to any company to do bunkering of fuel, despite a claim from Miami-based Bunkers International Corporation it had already received a licence. His comments came as Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) president general Ancel Roget called on Ramnarine to explain why Petrotrin had not been given the licence to run the multi-million-dollar bunkering industry. Speaking at his Paramount Building headquarters office yesterday, after meeting with Petrotrin chairman Khalid Hassanali, Roget said Petrotrin, which has been involved in bunkering for 67 years, was being sidelined by the People’s Partnership Government in favour of Bunkers Oil Trinidad and Tobago Ltd — a company formed just a month ago. Bunkers Oil of T&T is a subsidiary of Bunkers International Corporation (BIC).
Roget said his union would protect T&T’s future generations by ensuring local resources were not squandered. He called on Ramnarine to say who was on the board of directors at Bunkers Oil of T&T. “We want to know whether the minister contacted this company or whether they came to him because we strongly suspect there is nepotism involved,” Roget said. However, Ramnarine, in a telephone interview yesterday, said no licence had been awarded. “The award of any licence will be subjected to a rigorous due diligence which will be conducted by the Minister of Energy,” he said. Asked to identify the board of directors, Ramnarine said: “I don’t know who the directors are. The ministry will gather that information and then make a statement. “I know the company in question (Bunkers Oil of T&T), which is locally registered, is a subsidiary of Bunkers International, a well- established bunkering organisation.”
Asked why state-owned Petrotrin was not considered, Ramnarine said: “Petrotrin has traditionally been a wholesaler.” He said the private sector always had been involved in bunkering. He said he had asked the Petrotrin board to do a commercial evaluation of the bunkering business, adding: “The Ministry of Energy will be conducting a stakeholder commercial evaluation so that we can have a quantitative economic assessment of the opportunity to determine whether it is a good business or not.” With regard to Bunkers International Corporation’s claim it had a licence, Ramnarine said he would correspond with company officials and “advise them accordingly.” Responding to a subsequent text message he said: “The Cabinet decision is a conditional award. No licence has been awarded. A due diligence has to be done.” During a post-Cabinet briefing on August 16, Ramnarine said Cabinet had agreed to the issue of a marketing licence for bunkering to Bunkers International. However, John Canal, president and CEO, said licences had already been granted.
...but Bunkers boss says: We have one
Despite statements by Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine that no licence has been granted to Miami-based Bunkers International Corporation (BIC), the company maintains it has a licence to operate bunkering services in T&T. On Wednesday, John Canal, president and CEO of BIC, and Alfred Canal, his brother and chief financial officer, said the licence had been awarded and only minor details needed to be worked out. On Wednesday, Ramnarine, at a media conference at Tower C of the International Financial Complex, Port-of-Spain, said while Bunkers Oil T&T Ltd had applied to the Ministry of Energy for a licence it was forwarded to Cabinet for approval. “Thus far, no licence has been awarded,” Ramnarine added.
He said conditional approval was granted by Cabinet, subject to conditions.
Responding yesterday to doubts on whether a licence had been awarded to BIC, John, in an e-mailed response, said the company was preparing outstanding documentation which the Ministry of Energy requested. He anticipates there will be a lot of “back-and-forth” before BIC can get the nod to officially provide bunkering services. John added: “As we understand, Cabinet has approved the grant of a marketing licence to Bunkers Oil T&T Ltd with a number of conditions to be met. We are preparing and providing responses and the information that the ministry requires.” Last Friday, Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) president general Ancel Roget was concerned about BIC’s operations in T&T. Asked yesterday what were some of the conditions the Ministry of Energy required, John said: “The requirements are normal and consistent with the operation of running a bunker operation and they are all conditions and requirements that we can meet.”