PRIME Minister Dr Keith Rowley has called a meeting with Tobago stakeholders to discuss the Government's failure to secure a suitable passenger ferry to service the inter-island seabridge.
The meeting will take place on August 21 at the Magdalena Grand Hotel at Lowlands, Tobago.
Those in attendance will include the Tobago Chamber of Commerce, the Tobago Hoteliers and Tourism Association, the Tobago Truckers Association and the Tobago Unique Bread and Breakfast and Self-Catering Association, a statement from the Office of the Prime Minister advised yesterday.
Tobago West MP Shamfa Cudjoe and Tobago East MP Ayanna Webster-Roy as well as Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan are also expected to attend.
The meeting follows the Port Authority's decision to cancel the contract with Vancouver-based Bridgemans Services Group LP (BSG) to lease the Ocean Flower II vessel which suffered several delays on its way to Port of Spain.
The Ocean Flower II has also been described as unfit in a report by chief engineer Brendon Powder who carried out a sea trial of the vessel in Panama and identified a number of mechanical defects.
The report was received by the Port Authority two days before the cancellation of the contract.
Bridgemans Services Group said on Friday it is “exploring its options” as it believes the cancellation to be invalid.
Contacted yesterday, president of the Tobago Truckers Association Horace Ameade said he would go to the Prime Minister's meeting with an open mind.
“What we want to see come out of this meeting is to have a proper working fast ferry to transport Tobagonians to and from Trinidad as they conduct their business on a daily basis. So we are going in with an open mind and after he makes his comments we will make our recommendations.”
Asked if he felt Sinanan or the board of the Port Authority should resign over the debacle, Ameade said the entire arrangement was suspect and someone must take responsibility.
“Something is not above board,” he said. “Somebody should be held accountable because it is taking a toll on business in Tobago. We really hope that people would stop thinking about themselves and think about the wider public in this situation.”
President of the Hoteliers Association Chris James confirmed that he would be attending the meeting with the Prime Minister but said he did not want to make any comment until after the meeting.
Procurement process flawed
The Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce also commented on the controversy, saying it appears that the procurement process may not have followed best practice.
“Not surprisingly, this serves only to diminish any confidence we may have in attaining a sustainable seabridge service in the near-term,” the Chamber said in a statement last week.
It added that the Cabo Star cargo vessel, which is already in operation, has failed to meet expectations with a host of challenges including malfunctioning air conditioning units and washroom facilities.
The Sunday Express yesterday attempted to question BSG operations manager Matthew Froese about the issue however he responded: “I have no comment to make.”
Repeated calls to Sinanan as well as Port Authority chairman Allison Lewis yesterday went unanswered.