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Probe Ocean Flower fiasco now

Friday, August 11, 2017

After several more stake­holders broke their silence on the Port Authority of T&T’s (PATT) decision to cancel the contract of the Ocean Flower II, what was promised to have been a smooth transition on the sea bridge service now seems to have turned into an utter fiasco.

This newspaper reiterates the call for an independent investi­gation into the decision to engage Bridgemans World Services and eventually utilise their vessels— the Ocean Flower II and the Cabo Star.

In spite of PATT chairman Ali­son Lewis swearing to the trans­parency of the process, all of the information surrounding the deal remains far too vague. What could have helped yesterday would have been an appearance by Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan at the post-Cabinet briefing to provide the tax paying public with some update or expla­nation.

Reports that the PATT and Bridgemans vice president Andrew Purdey held a private meeting yesterday, in an effort to salvage the deal, have not been confirmed.

In the meantime, media reports on the matter remain troubling. That Ms Lewis is now on vacation at the height of what is clearly a tumultuous time at PATT, the or­ganisation now facing a new ten­dering process for another vessel, is also troubling. The decision to go on vacation at a time like this is unfortunate, since she should be present and responsible for steer­ing the PATT through these rough waters.

The prospect of spending mil­lions of dollars in legal fees at a time when the economy is clearly facing a harsh reality, is loath­some, but it seems a commission of inquiry, as has been suggested previously, may indeed be the only way to coax the information out of those who currently hold the answers to the troubling turn of events that led to the cancellation of the Ocean Flower deal.

The Tobago Chamber of Com­merce yesterday reminded us of what PATT’s continued failings at fixing the sea bridge problem really translates to. With the ho­teliers claiming a $25 million loss of business due in part to the un­certainty travellers faced getting to the island, chairman Demi John Cruickshank was quick to point out that the lack of the promised proper service between the islands would continue to have a crippling effect on the Tobago economy.

There are of course business­es and passengers on either side who would be counting losses or missed opportunities as a result of the inefficiencies of the sea bridge. It is now high time to get it right.

This newspaper hopes that Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley will intervene directly, once again and demand public answers from the PATT board and the line min­ister about why and how things went so drastically wrong.


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