More than $127 million of taxpayers' money has been lost following the sale of four water taxis that were purchased under the People's National Movement (PNM) administration—including the controversial MV Su that was never used.
Documents obtained by the Express show that some $55 million was spent to buy and repair the MV Su which has been sold for $548,800 for scrap iron.
The MV Su was purchased for $25 million while the HC Katia, the HC Olivia and the HC Milancia were purchased in 2008 for use as water taxis at $12 million each.
The MV Su never sailed a day since it was bought. Twenty seven million more was spent on repairs alone after it was bought and, according to Transport Minister Devant Maharaj, it would have sunk had it made a short voyage from Chaguaramas to Port of Spain.
For four years the MV Su was berthed at the Inter Isle Construction Co Ltd. dockyard, Chaguaramas, costing thousands of dollars which escalated to some $76,000 a month. The other vessels were kept at the Coast Guard compound at Hart's Cut, Chaguaramas.
Advertisements were placed for the sale of the MV Su in March this year.
Documents on the sale of the vessels show that capital expenditure, (which includes the cost of acquisition in addition to the cost incurred to bring the vessels into use) amounted to $133,310,513 while $6,038,265 was recovered from their sale, resulting in a total loss of $127,272,248.
In a telephone interview with the Express yesterday, Maharaj confirmed that agreements have been put in place to sell all the vessels.
"When one looks at all the other attendant costs, almost half a billion dollars was spent to set up the water taxi service and to purchase these vessels,'' said Maharaj.
"This is an indictment against Colm Imbert (former works and transport Minister). It will be interesting to find out what Dr (Keith) Rowley has to say about all of this. The MV Su is the personification of PNM squandermania, it never sailed a day,'' said Maharaj.
"It is a relief to close this chapter of rampant wastage, the cost of keeping these vessels just did not make economic sense," he added.
The National Infrastructure Development Company (NIDCO) was directed by Cabinet to sell the vessels and the services of an international broker, Astralship Corporation Ltd of Gibraltar, were retained.
In November 2011, Astralship did a valuation survey on the MV Su and assessed its resale value on the second hand market at between TT$332,000 and TT$644,000 based on its age, existing condition and prevailing conditions.
The Express understands that four persons expressed interest in buying the MV Su.
An international based company—Miami Connection Ltd—was given approval to buy the MV Su for scrap iron for $548,800.
As of May 31, 2012, a total of TT$55 million had been expended in the procurement, repair and berthing of the MV Su.
Documents further disclosed that TT$9.4 million will have to be injected by the Government to liquidate the loan on the MV Su.
With respect to the other three vessels, Astralship also submitted a valuation in November 2011 which stated that the HC Milancia and HC Katia were valued at between US$550,000/$700,000, and the HC Olivia at between US $400,000/$500,000.
In March 2012, the vessels were reassessed and because of the lack of maintenance at the coast guard facility and further deterioration they were valued as follows: HC Milancia and HC Katia—between US$300,000/$400,000 and HC Olivia—US$200,000/$300,000.
Astralship recommended that the bid of Val Ferry Caraibe (Guadeloupe) for the vessels be accepted.
Documents show that it was agreed that all three vessels will be sold for TT$5.4 million.
However, Government will still be required to pump $7.8 million to liquidate the portion of the loan relating to the three vessels.
A US$12 million loan was secured through Scotiabank in Trinidad and Tobago to purchase all four vessels.