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My workload was too much

Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Sahadeo admits problems with old PATT board
In this September 2015 photograph, President Anthony Carmona, centre, and then Minister of Works and Transport Fitzgerald Hinds, fourth from right, pose with Chairman of the Port Authority, Christine Sahadeo, fourth from left, and the newly-installed board following a swearing-in ceremony at the Office of The President in St Ann’s. PHOTO: MARCUS GONZALES

Former Port Authority chairman Christine Sahadeo says she resigned because she could not dedicate the time needed to do the job properly.

“My workload had substantially increased, and the amount of work at the port also increased,” Sahadeo told the T&T Guardian.

Sahadeo said in 2002, government had issued a Cabinet note to separate the port into business entities and this needed to be rationalised. She said this exercise was a time consuming one which involved the Port of Port-of-Spain, Port of Port-of-Spain Infrastructure Company and the Inter-Island Company of T&T. The ultimate aim was to improve the governance and accountability at the port, she added. Sahadeo admitted, however, that there were problems with the board.

“Not many had shipping experience. Shipping is a specialised industry and you need to have specialist people.”

However, she dismissed claims by former board director Ferdie Ferreira that she operated contrary to the State Performance Manual. She said unlike Ferreira she has a wealth of experience on boards.

“I have sat on several boards since I was younger and I worked on the state enterprise manual to which he is referring. I also supervised state enterprises, so my record is there,” she said.

Sahadeo said she did not want to get into a war of words with Ferreira and emphasised that her involvement was to guide the organisation for the best result.

Ferreira had raised concerns about Sahadeo’s request that the board approve the appointment of Charmaine Lewis as interim CEO, only to ask them to rescind the decision soon after.

She explained: “When we went in then CEO Satnarine Bachu resigned and Leon Grant was appointed acting CEO, but we had to put a transition team to work closely with Magellan, and Grant was appointed to manage the transition from Bay Ferries to Magellan.”

That transition had to do with operating the ferries between Trinidad and Tobago.

It was in this scenario, she said, that Lewis was appointed interim CEO.

However, a senior port official told the T&T Guardian Lewis’ appointment did not sit well with senior staff and there was the threat of a strike over the decision. Sahadeo refused to comment on this claim.

Instead, referring specifically to the transition, she said the aim was to ensure the move from Bay Ferries to locals was properly handled.

“It was an achievement which required dedicated work. They had to contact me many times because the port was not performing as it should, and it is an essential service between Trinidad and Tobago,” she said.

Noting that Magellan’s contract ends this month, Sahadeo said having locals run the ferry is a winner.

“It created higher paying jobs for locals, who are now hired as captains. It reduced operational costs and we saved on foreign exchange,” she said

Sahadeo said what Ferreira saw as her hands on approach was her simply ensuring that she kept updated “because the minister had to be updated regularly.”

She admitted there are several issues which still need to be addressed at the port, including ensuring the vessels are working and well-maintained and a proper service is provided to the people of T&T. The port also needs restructuring and the cargo vessel replaced, she said.