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We can cancel deal any time

The trinidad Guardian / The Ocean Flower 2, the passenger vessel leased by the Government to ease the current problems on the sea bridge, is now in Alaska as it continues to make its way to Port-of-Spain.

And a tough talking Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan reiterated yesterday that “we will not pay for a service we not getting,” telling the T&T Guardian if when the vessel arrives there are problems there is room for the Government to end the agreement. He said he had asked for a report on the status of the vessel and expected to get it before the end of yesterday in the wake of reports it had encountered mechanical issues on the way here.

But both Port Authority of T&T chairman Allison Lewis and general manager Charmaine Lewis are denying these reports. They say the vessel was delayed on its journey because of weather conditions which caused it to significantly reduce its speed and also because it is required to make various stops for fuel because it does not have long range fuel capacity. Lewis added: “We have no information that the vessel stalled or broke down.”

The vessel left its port of origin on June 29 and was originally scheduled to get here on July 17, but the arrival date is now set for July 26.

The Ocean Flower 2 is 21 years old and Lewis due diligence was done on the vessel, with International Surveyor LLoyds Shipping doing pre-hire and condition surveys which involved examination of the entire vessel, including the hull, engine and under-body, as well as assessing the viability of extending the vessel’s useful life. The vessel was given a clean bill of health.

“We have copies of the report duly signed by the international surveyor. They will not put their reputation on the line by saying the vessel is good when it is not,” the GM said.

Sinanan said before the contract with Bridgeman Services Limited was signed the port and ministry did what they had to do to “ensure the interest of the country was protected.

“We have an agreement with the Charter and if it does not reach on time the attorneys put a penalty in the contract,” he said.

While the vessel has a seven-day window if it does not get here by the scheduled July 17 arrival date, it will be slapped with a daily penalty of US$26,500 with interest.

Under the contract, Sinanan said once the vessel gets here and it does not work “then we don’t pay, this is not a vessel we buying, this is a lease and if it comes and it’s not working we can cancel the lease. If it’s not working we don’t pay.”

An undisclosed mobilisation fee was paid to secure the vessel and get it here.

Sinanan added that “this was an emergency and we did not have the luxury of waiting for months for another vessel,” but he assured the contract has an exit clause which the Government will use if it needs to.

Yesterday, Allison Lewis said the vessel was heading for Dutch Harbour in Alaska. From there it will “stop off in Panama for a few days for reflagging.” She said of the 13 submissions, the Ocean Flower 2 was found to be the “most suitable in terms of availability, time, cost, mobilisation and fuel consumption.”

An angry Charmaine Lewis said while other people may not believe the situation on the sea bridge was critical and needed to be addressed with urgency, “the port deemed it a critical matter to get the vessel here and time was a major factor. Other people may feel we could have waited but the port felt fixing the sea bridge problem was critical.”

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