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THA rep absent from JSC session
Inter-island Truckers and Traders Association president Horace Amede yesterday called for the one-year contract of the Cabo Star to be scrapped, as the vessel is creating severe headache for his members and Tobagonians.
Amede made the call before the Joint Select Committee (JSC) chaired by Stephen Creese at the Bruce Financial Complex in Scarborough, where stakeholders who have been adversely affected by the ongoing sea bridge fiasco were able to vent their feelings.
Yesterday marked the third day of the inquiry into the inter-island ferry service focusing on the procurement and maintenance of the vessels.
At the start of the hearing, Creese read a letter sent by senior legal counsel Alvin Pascal on behalf of the Tobago House of Assembly, which indicated its representatives would not be attending because the sea bridge issue fell under Central Government, which was already represented by the Ministry of Works and Transport.
In his testimony, Amede pointed out that the ferry service was the lifeline for Tobagonians, who have been losing millions of dollars in business. Committee member Franklin Khan tried to comfort Amede, telling him he felt their pains and Government was trying its best to get the matter sorted out in the shortest possible time.
During a discussion with Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan in 2016, Amede said they were assured the owners of the Super Fast Galicia would not pull the vessel out of service because they needed the money. He said the association then began hearing rumours that the chartered agreement for the Galicia was not signed.
“Everything was working fine with the Galicia. There were one or two minor problems. We made recommendations for the Galicia to stay, lo and behold it was gotten rid of and we are faced with a crisis that some of us are still under stress up to today,” he said.
He said he remained perplexed that the Ocean Flower 2 was bought on June 26 but the Government made the announcement of its contract on June 30.
“We believe that something is wrong in the procurement of those vessels.”
Amede outlined a list of problems on the cargo vessel, ranging from an infestation of rats, roaches and mites, inadequate washroom and bathroom facilities, no food and water on sale, no sick room or air conditioning. He said truckers also have to sleep on the ground during its nine hours of sailing.
“If we had a choice the Cabo Star would not have been here today because of the problems we are faced with. We should not be living like that in this modern society.”
Committee vice chairman Rushton Paray told Amede that Sinanan, in his testimony on Tuesday, said when the proposal for the Galicia came to him he was not in position to make the taxpayers pay a $200 million bill over the next five years.
Paray asked Amede what message he would send to Sinanan to bring a resolution to the crisis, taking into consideration if the Cabo Star’s contract is broken taxpayers would have to pay a heavy price.
Amede said, “Replace the boat because it is definitely not working for us. My recommendation to him would be get rid of that vessel and get rid of it now.”
Amede said seeing that Government has expressed an interest in buying a vessel, they should ensure it is custom built to suit their needs and its sailing time is four hours.
Association vice president Robert Tardieu also queried if the Cabo Star was certified.
“What measures were taken to allow people to travel on the vessel? Who is providing the insurance? Who issued the extension of the certificate for the Ro-Ro vessel, because it was only valid for three months? All these questions need to be answered.”
Tardieu said as far as he understood “people who are travelling on that vessel are doing so, unless I am mistaken, at their own risk.”