PORT OF SPAIN – Government has cancelled its leasing of the Ocean Flower II, the vessel that was supposed to help salvage Trinidad and Tobago’s dysfunctional inter-island ferry service.
The cancellation, announced Wednesday morning by Works and Transport minister, Rohan Sinanan, brings to a partial end a controversial contract between the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (PATT) and a Canadian firm, Bridgemans Services Group LP, which also provided the State with the cargo vessel, MV Cabo Star.
The Cabo Star is currently, from all indications, still operational in local waters but the Ocean Flower II failed to arrive in T&T at the end of last month, as stipulated by the contract.
Both vessels, leased last month at a daily cost of US$22,500 (around TT$157,500) and US$26,500 (TT$185,500), respectively, were intended as medium term solutions to the sea bridge woes, while Government sought the building of its own vessel.
The PATT delivered a recommendation to Sinanan on Ocean Flower II after two days of intense discussion over the tardiness of the vessel, though the reasons that the ship has been laid up in the Panama Canal remain unclear.
The vessel was first expected on July 17, which was later extended to then July 26.
The decision to drop the vessel was made late Tuesday, Sinanan said and the PATT’s legal team recommended that the contract be terminated on the basis of its failure to fulfil the times agreed upon in the contract, in order to keep Government within its legal rights.
Sinanan and the PATT have taken heat over Bridgemans, with a storm of questions over whether the company is a legitimate one and one qualified to source ferry services.
Tenders are to be issued out for a new vessel, Sinanan said.
Sinanan has also stated that the termination does not affect the efficiency of the sea bridge given the working at the time of the T&T Spirit, T&T Express and the Cabo Star, which are operating under passenger capacity.
An official statement on the development is expected from the Port Authority on Wednesday.