THE question of a bunkering licence awarded to an unnamed private party has added more strain to the relationship between the Oilfields Workers' Trade Union (OWTU) and the Ministry of Energy.
While Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine yesterday admitted that Bunkers Oil T&T has applied to his Ministry for the licence, he said it was forwarded for Cabinet approval.
"Thus far no licence has been awarded," Ramnarine said yesterday at a media conference at his office in Tower C at the International Financial Complex, Port of Spain.
"A legitimate application has been made to the Ministry for a licence. Of course, you can't ask people to do all the things necessary to get a licence and then you take it to Cabinet and it's turned down, so what you get is a conditional approval from Cabinet and that approval is subject to a whole list of conditions being met."
The Minister said one company has been granted that conditional approval, Bunkers Oil T&T, adding that Petrotrin and Ventrin also hold bunkering licences.
Ventrin is a private company operated by former Petrotrin president Wayne Bertrand.
Ramnarine said Bunkers Oil T&T was a subsidiary of Bunkers International Corporation and was registered locally.
"The Ministry was approached by the persons involved in Bunkers Oil T&T for assistance to get a bunkering licence," he said.
This is this Government's first such contract licence awarded.
Ramnarine said Petrotrin will be undertaking a commercial evaluation to determine the opportunity cost of pursuing bunkering itself versus outsourcing it through a licence.
Aleem Hosein, Petrotrin's deputy chairman, yesterday said to upgrade the State-owned company's assets would cost $80-$100 million to start.
Hosein also said that the board has been filling "numerous vacancies" over the past few months, but could not give an actual figure.
But Ancel Roget, leader of the OWTU, was not satisfied with either man's response to his questions and instead claimed that Ramnarine was "back pedalling" on what he had said on the same issue three weeks ago at a post-Cabinet press briefing.
"The Minister was ducking all of the questions," Roget said.
"They know full well who are the players involved, but refuse to release the names of those persons. So we have one corrupt practice after a next," he said.
Roget said Ramnarine only provided one name, John Canal, as the man behind US-based Bunkers Oil International.
"Are they connected to members of the board, members of the party, their financiers? Who are these local players. We want to know," he asked.