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Imbert: No back-door deal for new ferry

Published: 
Saturday, February 10, 2018
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The Galleons Passage

Finance Minister Colm Imbert has scotched Opposition claims that the US$17.4m price for the Galleons Passage passenger ferry may not be the real price.

Queries on the issue were raised by UNC whip David Lee on Thursday who called on the Government to “come clean with the full details” surrounding the procurement of the Galleons Passage ferry now en route from China.

Lee noted PNM statements that the ferry was a “steal of a deal” referring to its cost.

“It’s rare to see a ferry, with these specifications, being sold significantly below its market price as is this one. First, the Finance Minister must say if the Government refunded the original owners who commissioned the ferry to be built their initial progress payments that were made to the ship-building company in a secret deal?

“Also, is the price of US$17.4 m quoted by the Minister of Finance actually the balance owing to the shipyard to complete the ferry’s construction? What is the total price being paid to acquire this ferry?” he asked.

Imbert replying to T&T Guardian queries on the matter, said, “No refund was paid to the original owners who commissioned the ferry. Because of the answer to question 1, question 2 is not applicable—and as stated in Parliament, the purchase price for the Galleons Passage is US$17.4 m.”

Imbert confirmed the vessel was registered on Thursday in the name of the National Infrastructure Development Company.

“An experienced crew is currently being mobilised in Guandong, China to sail the vessel to Port-of-Spain,” Imbert said. The vessel is expected to arrive in T&T in mid-April.

He said Lloyd’s Register Classification Society has issued the Confirmation of Class Certificate to the new ferry as a 100A1 SSC Passenger Ship. It was rated as suitable for sea-going service and was constructed or accepted into Lloyd’s Register class and is maintained in good and efficient condition.

He noted a “1” rating meant it has good and efficient anchoring and mooring equipment.

However, UNC’s Lee has condemned the Government and the Prime Minister for failing to fulfil the promise of providing the seabridge with a passenger ferry before Carnival.

“It’s reinforced the demise of Tobago’s economy. Especially, since the T&T Express is being pulled out of service for the Carnival weekend. Yet again the broken ferry promises and ‘don’t care’ approach has helped destroy Tobago’s economy given the quantum of business lost since last August and Carnival due to the absence of a ferry.”

“The Prime Minister on December 5, 2017, committed to ensuring the Christmas and Carnival seasons doesn’t meet Tobago without a ferry, however, that promise has been broken.”

Lee said sustained damage has been done to Tobago’s economy as some businesses are facing foreclosures, some firms have had to let go employees and travellers have been constantly inconvenienced.

“A new ferry won’t compensate for the thousands of dollars lost since August 2017,” he said.

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