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Govt rejects request for secrecy

Published: 
Sunday, April 23, 2017
Legal battle over Galicia heats up

Government has rejected a request from Inter-Continental Shipping to keep details of the new arrangement related to the MV Superfast Galicia confidential.

A second legal letter sent by the Ministry of Works and Transport’s attorneys says it is a “matter of national importance” and as such it will continue to be ventilated in the public domain.

Yesterday, a series of legal letters were exchanged between the Ministry of Works and Transport and the owners of Intercontinental Shipping Limited.

Intercontinental Shipping, the local broker for the MV Superfast Galicia, was given a 9 am deadline on Friday morning to respond to a legal letter from the Government about the charter hire agreement for the vessel.

That letter prompted dialogue between the two parties about how best to avoid a breach of contract.

In its response, Intercontinental Shipping Limited offered suggestions on how the matter could be settled.

However, in a second legal letter sent to the local firm through the law offices of Dr Claude H Denbow, SC, the Ministry of Works and Transport says it notes the request for “some form of non-disclosure about the new arrangements.”

However, it felt that such a request was “untenable” as the matter is of “national importance.”

In the letter from attorney at law Donna Denbow, Government says the matter cannot be withheld from being placed in the public domain, adding that it was because of their client’s breach that “this matter has commanded so much public attention.”

Government has maintained there is an 18-month contract charter hire for the Superfast Galicia which expires on October 31, 2017, and it is demanding that that agreement is honoured.

In the letter, Government says transparency in governance mandates that the issue with the Galicia continues to be “ventilated in the public domain.”

Contacted for comment yesterday, managing director of Intercontinental Shipping Limited, John Powell told Guardian Media: “We responded to that letter last night. At this time, we have no further comments.”

Guardian Media was not told why there was a request for non-disclosure.

Government not budging

Despite legal attempts to have the Superfast Galicia remain to service the sea bridge, the vessel, which has been at the centre of a heated battle, set sail for Spain yesterday.

While it makes the three-week voyage home, its local handlers may have to find a replacement vessel.

In the subsequent legal exchange between the parties, the Government says it is “not prepared” to accept an arrangement which will result in “interrupted service for transportation of cargo” between the islands.

Based on the letter, it appears Intercontinental Shipping Ltd requested a period of 14 days in order to supply a vessel.

However, Government says it will utilise “all remedies available” to it in law to ensure the service is uninterrupted.

Based on the Government’s letter, Intercontinental continues to deny that there is an 18-month contract.

What are government’s demands?

It is prepared to accept a vessel comparable to the MV Superfast Galicia in terms of specifications, capacity and purpose. It does not accept that a suggested vessel, the M/V Elizabeth Russ, is such a vessel.

It also wanted the Superfast Galicia to continue to fulfill its obligations until a proposed replacement vessel arrives. Intercontinental Shipping is also expected to bear the full cost of a replacement vessel.