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Govt rejects latest PATT ferry choice

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Friday, December 1, 2017

The Ocean Flower II

The Government has reportedly rejected a recommendation by the evaluation committee of the Port Authority of T&T (PATT) for a passenger ferry for the sea bridge. And a new committee may have to review tenders received since mid-September, according to Port Authority sources.

According to insiders, the board was informed at a meeting last Wednesday that their recommendation had been rejected.

With the T&T Express due to go on dry dock next month and no word on when the T &T Spirit will be brought back into service, there are now concerns that ongoing problems with the passenger service could get worse.

When tenders for the passenger ferry closed in mid-September, 11 bids had been received. The evaluation committee narrowed those down two vessels submitted by Sea Jets High Speed Maritime Company of Piraeus, Greece, and the Ocean Flower 2 — the vessel owned by Bridgemans Services which was given a contract in June which was subsequently cancelled after it failed to meet three arrival dates

On November 14, the PATT wrote to Sea Jets informing them that access would be granted for physical inspection of ramp facilities. That letter was sent five days after another letter in which the PATT asked Sea Jets to do a pre-charter condition survey using Lloyd’s Register or Det Norske Veritas. Sea Jets was also asked to provide a ramp compatibility report.

Well-placed sources said the vessels tendered by Sea Jets are similar to the Incat vessels currently in use on the sea bridge.

The evaluation team also viewed the Ocean Flower 2 favourably, since that vessel is docked off Chaguaramas.

“Just by virtue of common sense, that gives the vessel the advantage in terms of mobilisation cost and delivery time would be less than a day,” a source told the T&T Guardian of the Ocean Flower 2’s chances.

Bridgeman’s vice president Andrew Purdey said the company was also invited to do a physical inspection of ramp facilities for berthing of the passenger ferry and to conduct a Lloyd’s survey on the Ocean Flower 2. These requests are in keeping with the process. Once a decision is made on preferred vessels, the Lloyd’s Survey and sea trials are the next critical steps.

However, there was concern that if the Ocean Flower 2 was selected there would be a public outcry because of the previous cancellation of its contract.

“The port had an open invitation for tenders for a ferry, so they have to be fair to all the persons who submitted bids. While they may not be the preferred choice they need to be fair, to do otherwise could open them up to litigation,” the source said.

PATT officials have expressed concern that two senior officials who had previously been involved in the process for the tender and evaluation of vessels are no longer part of the process.

Acting CEO of the Inter-Island Transportation Company Ltd Leon Grant is still on suspension and former general manager/CEO Charmaine Lewis was fired. That leaves very few people with the knowledge and expertise to go through the process, they said.

The evaluation committee included a former Coast Guard commander, the representative for the Maritime Services Division, a representative from the sea pilots Kurt Duncan and naval architect Courtney Lange.

“These are all qualified people who would have come up with a recommendation. The question is who is vetoing the recommendation? Is there really the urgency required to fix the sea bridge problem?” the source asked.