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Port for La Brea in next three years, says Sharma
The Government will be seeking expressions of interest for a port facility which will be built in La Brea to handle an anticipated billion-dollar shipping demand, Transport Minister Chandresh Sharma said yesterday. Speaking at the weekly post-cabinet media conference, Sharma said the port will be built on 200 acres of land.
Saying T&T continues to attract investors, Sharma said Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar recently said T&T was looking to $20 billion worth of investment stemming from the Panama Canal expansion. He said this could see a projected 300-plus ships calling at T&T. The Port of Port-of-Spain and Pt Lisas ports would be unable to accommodate the added demand, he said.
Sharma said it would be premature to give a cost figure for the planned port at this time, but expressions of interest for the port development will be invited and after this Government will budget a figure for the plan if required. He said the projection is for the port to be completed before the end of 2015.
The planned port was mentioned briefly in Finance Minister Larry Howai’s budget speech. On whether it will provide jobs for La Brea residents, Sharma pointed to the declining unemployment figure, saying T&T would need all its workers soon. Asked if the La Brea port would be another reason to make the Point Fortin Highway necessary, Sharma said he “thought that was already communicated.”
He said he did not hire any transport to bring Point Fortin Highway supporters to Port-of-Spain recently to counter the Wayne Kublalsingh fast. On another issue, concerning a child who was recently hit by a truck in central Trinidad, Sharma said the ministry had been in talks with trucking contractors. He cautioned youths and adults to be alert on the roads, saying news reports had noted that the child in question had ben wearing earphones and holding a cellphone when she was hit.
Sharma, who left the post-cabinet media briefing after he spoke, did not answer subsequent cellphone calls to get more details on the proposed La Brea port. PNM La Brea MP Fitzgerald Jeffrey said, “If the port happens, fine, I’ll be happy. But based on this Government’s track record of broken promises to La Brea, I won’t lose any sleep waiting on this new plan. They had said in the 2013 budget that they were going to build a cruise ship port at La Brea.
“They had also told us in La Brea they would build an iron and steel plant, and that a plastic plant, solar panel plant were coming. “After the plans for the smelter fell through, our unemployment situation is ridiculous down here.”