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6 companies tendered for ferry in November
Six companies submitted tenders in November 2017 for the acquisition of an inter-island ferry to service the route between Trinidad and Tobago.
Tender submissions were received from:
• Get Away Cruises Limited
• Ocean Star Shipping Limited
• Bridgemans Services Group LP
• &empmargin;Paragon Protection Consultants Limited
• Fortune Maritime LLC
• Seajets Maritime Company
This was disclosed to former transport minister Devant Maharaj on Friday in a letter sent to him by the Port Authority of T&T’s designated officer, Daffodil Maxwell.
Maxwell was responding to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request made by attorney Douglas Bayley, on behalf of Maharaj. That request was sent on December 6, 2017.
The letter also disclosed that the four-member Evaluation Committee to select the ferry was chaired by Curtis Roach, a former director Maritime Services Division, Ministry of Works and Transport, former International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Regional Maritime Adviser (Caribbean), former Port commissioner and former senior member of the T&T Coast Guard.
The other three members were identified as: Courtney Lange (naval architect, qualified marine surveyor operating locally, regionally and internationally); Kurt Duncan (qualified master mariner and pilot master, T&T Pilots’ Association); and Jennifer Lutchman (deputy permanent secretary, Ministry of Finance, auditor and qualified accountant certified by Association of Chartered Certified Accountants as a Fellow, designation FCCA).
The PATT considered the request for information, in accordance with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act Chap 22:02.
The information requested
i) The number and names of agents, operators of vessels, companies and/or organisations that submitted bids and/or expressed interest pursuant to the advertisement published in various newspapers in T&T in August/September 2017 to provide ferry service between T&T;
ii) The names and qualifications of the committee established by the PATT to evaluate the submissions for the advertised tender;
(iii) The basis upon which the decision was taken and the Board minute of the meeting at which such decision was taken to appoint the committee to evaluate the submissions for the advertised tender;
(iv) The report of the tender committee to the PATT, in relation to its review of the submitted tenders;
(v) Any and/or all correspondence and/re recommendations between the Ministry of Works and Transport and PATT and vice versa regarding the report of the tender committee and/or any Board minutes related to such correspondence and/or recommendations;
vi) The process by which and under whose authority was the directive given by PATT to the National Infrastructure Development Company Limited (Nidco), to procure an inter-island ferry for use between Trinidad and Tobago and any/or all correspondence related thereto.
However, the PATT refused to answer iii and v.
Maxwell explained: “Please note that we are unable to fulfil your request in relation to items iii and v as we are of the view that those documents are exempt from disclosure under Sections 24, 27 and 33 (b) to (d) of the Freedom of Information Act.”
In relation to Maharaj’s request under item (vi), the PATT made it clear that it does not have the authority to direct the Cabinet.
Also, in relation to the other request under item vii, which concerns Nidco, PATT denied giving “any directive to Nidco”.
A four-member Cabinet committee chaired by Finance Minister Colm Imbert was subsequently established to select a vessel to service the sea bridge.
A vessel was selected in three weeks.Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General Stuart Young, Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte and Tourism Minister Shamfa Cudjoe formed the remainder of the Cabinet committee. In a supplemental question put forward to Finance Minister Colm Imbert in Parliament, Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal asked what was the procurement process used by the Government in obtaining the vessel.
Imbert said the vessel was put through an extensive sea trial in the water over the last month.
He also disclosed that the vessel was identified by way of a worldwide search using international experts and it was procured by the National Infrastructure Development Company.
The vessel is expected to arrive in T&T within two months.
Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan did not respond to questions sent to him on the matter yesterday.
Maharaj: Is something amiss?
Maharaj said given the qualifications of the Evaluation Committee headed by Roach, he is now questioning if anything is amiss with the procurement of the present vessel from Asia at a cost of US$17.4 million ($220 M TT).
“When you look at the qualifications of the Evaluation Committee, and you juxtapose that to the inexperience of the Cabinet appointed committee and the shortness of time, one has to arrive at a suspicion that something is amiss here,” Maharaj said.
“The report of this qualified committee has been withheld from public scrutiny and we have no idea what they recommended and why it was rejected.”
Maharaj said the bigger question, however, is why the Government has chosen to purchase a vessel rather than lease one.
“The bigger question is that in all previous occasions the plan was to get a lease for a couple years. Government has now purchased a ferry. Something has to be wrong, they rushed and bought a ferry in three week, it is a nameless ferry as we speak,” Maharaj said.
In a fresh FOI request on Friday, Maharaj is questioning the terms and conditions of the purchase, the broker used and selected, and documentation on the boat.