Parliament meets today for what is described as a mere formality, to confirm Justice Paula Mae-Weekes as this country’s sixth President.
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Govt owed US$35m by Swiss firm
The Ministry of Works and Transport has been slow to conclude negotiations with Swiss offshore drilling contractor, Transocean, that will lead to the payment to the Government of at least US$35 million ($231 million) for the mooring of nine drillships off the coast of Chaguaramas for close to years, T&T Guardian inquiries have revealed.
News that the Government is owed millions of US dollars comes as thousands of bank customers throughout the country complain about being unable to get the foreign exchange that they requested.
The drillships have been cold stacked (moored) off Trinidad’s north-west peninsula since the beginning of 2015, as the sharp decline in the price of oil from the end of November 2014 led to a slowdown in offshore drilling activity in the Western Hemisphere by energy companies. Those companies depend on drillships for exploratory offshore drilling of new oil and gas wells or for scientific drilling purposes.
Transocean chose to moor the rigs off Trinidad’s coast because of the country’s central location in the hemisphere and also because the previous administration offered the company a competitive price between the beginning of January 2015 and the general elections in September that year when the People’s Partnership was voted out of office.
Shortly after the People’s National Movement assumed office, the mooring fee was increased to US$8,000 per day per ship, which means that if the new rate was made effective September 2015 that Transocean would owe the Government close to US$35 million.
Questioned on the issue on December 3, Transocean spokesperson in Houston, Pam Easton said: “We have been working with the Government to finalise the agreement, which includes compensation for the area allocated to the rigs off the coast of Chaguaramas for as long as the rigs remain moored. We have found those with whom we have been working to be very supportive, and look forward to continuing our work in Trinidad.”
Asked why it was taking so long for an agreement to be completed with Transocean, Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan said the marine division of his ministry was working to firm up the arrangements with the Swiss multi-national company.
“There is no dispute over the amount of money owed per vessel per day by Transocean,” said Sinanan.
Transocean is one of the largest offshore drilling contractors in the world and has offices in 20 countries including Canada, the US, Norway, Brazil and T&T.