Ferries fiasco symptom of systemic societal problem

By Raffique Shah
August 15, 2017

Raffique ShahIt is incomprehensible to me how two boards of directors at the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (PATT), two line ministers responsible for the operations of the ferry service between Port of Spain and Scarborough, and a battery of senior public officers in the employ of the PATT and Government, could make such an unholy mess of the sea-bridge, culminating with the acquisition of a defective old tub that failed to even arrive in the country.

If I may wax lyrical, I find their ineptitude inexplicable, given that these high-and-mighty men and women all possess numerous academic appendages to their names, which signals they are highly qualified in their respective disciplines. Their mission was simple: find us two ferries that would, over the next year or two, service the sea-bridge adequately, especially during the maintenance downtime of the T&T Spirit and the T&T Express, until Government acquires new vessels.

To you and me, that may seem to be a relatively simple task that calls for common sense. First, locate vessels available for lease that meet the specifications. Second, obtain the histories of the vessels, which is not difficult, as CCN reporter Mark Bassant demonstrated. And third, have your engineers do physical checks to verify the operational capabilities and reliability of the short-listed ferries before you select or sign any contract to lease them.

In other words, make sure the damn boats can deliver what is expected of them, that the owners are not saddling you with lemons, as appears to be the case with the Ocean Flower II.

That this phalanx of public officers and the Government, which cannot claim to have not known what was happening, got it wrong for the umpteenth time, is a sad indictment against all involved in the process. Not only do they come across as being grossly incompetent, but their failures have raised the spectre of corruption, which the Keith Rowley Government vowed to eliminate when it campaigned against the wanton wastage and possible theft of public funds during the tenure of the previous administration.

Fire the Minister of Works and the PATT board, many say. Okay, so we do that. Then what? Appoint a new minister and new board, only to discover that they are no different to the incompetents who were fired?

In fact, we can fire the whole damn Government over the ferries fiasco and other sins of omission or commission and re-elect the Kamla Persad-Bissessar gang. Would we be better off? Half of this racially-divided country will say yes, the other half will say no. In my view, that would be like choosing the bandits who, unmasked, literally pose for CCTV cameras during robberies, over those who hide their faces while committing crimes.

In other words, people, we’ve got a huge problem, a systemic societal problem that runs deeper than issues like the sea-bridge, crime, policing, the health system, etc, all of which are symptoms of that malaise.

If you think the sea-bridge mess is indicative of the Rowley regime’s incompetence, consider this. In the eight years spanning 2009 to 2017, three governments doled out twenty or twenty-five or thirty billion of your and my money to CLICO or CL Financial or some private corporate entity owned by billionaires.

These governments-Patrick Manning’s, Persad-Bissessar’s, and now Rowley’s-cannot agree on exactly whom they lent our money to, how much they lent (or donated), whether or not interest was charged on all loans, whether the money was secured by assets that exceed the loans, or, indeed, if they can recover any of it.

Worse, they confuse simple you and me with complex share-ownership equations that, to me, set the stage for the disappearance of many billions of dollars that we won’t know we have lost, or who stole or pocketed it. One Lawrence Duprey company (don’t ask me its name-more confusion!) owns X percent of Angostura, which, in turn, owns Y percent of CL Brands, but CLB owns A percent of B…

You see confusion? Simple math tells me if we lent Duprey $25 billion over a period of, say, five years, then principal ($25 million) multiplied by rate (say 5 percent) by time (5 years), divided by 100 equal $6.25 billion. So Duprey owes the Treasury $25 billion principal plus $6.25 billion interest, which amount to $31.25 billion, minus whatever sum has already been repaid to Government.

But much the manner in which the acquisition of a ferry or two has spiralled into as complex a challenge as landing a manned spacecraft on Pluto, the CL multi-billion-dollar problem authored by three T&T governments will send math wizard Stephen Hawking stark crazy.

We cannot, however, absolve ourselves from these politically-generated mountains of manure. Who created the politicians who defecate on us? We did. We moulded them with both our hands (applause), and especially with our index fingers, which, if we use our imaginations, we could put to far more rewarding uses.

18 Responses to “Ferries fiasco symptom of systemic societal problem”

  • I get really peeved when ever the Ferry debacle is written or talked about, after all the billions in revenue that have passed through the treasury, Trinidad still don’t have the capacity to own and manage the Ferry service to Tobago, and then you have the gall to call yourselves leaders of a twin island independent republic state? is this the type of leadership Trinidad have to show after 55yrs of so-called self governance? it seems that Trinidad gov’t and private sector leaders have acquired PHD’ in acute ignorance. Being inept have its consequences, and saying SORRY does not cut it as a leader, it shows that your thinking level as a leader is of very low quality, only to be accepted by your supported minions.Hundreds of thousand of dollars are paid in US currency to rent and upkeep the ferries, with local and foreign privateers practically milking the country. Dominica, just celebrated 10 yrs of a having a continuous ferry service, the ferry is based in Guadaloupe and every day it sails into Dominica on its way to Martinique , St lucia and back, does Trinidad and Tobago deserves less? partisan politics is criminal in the sense that had Rowley not been a Tobagonian, the opposing voices might have been different, Trinidad have been historically rifted with corruption in all aspects of governance in both Gov’t and private, history will show that not ONE gov’t or Private official have been convicted of any criminal activity while holding office, but your prisons are fill to the brim with young Africans and Indians, convicted on petty crimes, that is deemed a mis-demeanor in other developing states. The continuance of having unqualified people managing the affaires of Trinidad and Tobago, will spiral, over time into nothingness.

  • I share the same sentiments Cooper. At a time, two years after coming from a chaotic regime lead by the now Opposition Leader, we had some expectations that at least for the very first time, we would have seen evidence of corruption exposed and the conviction of corrupt leaders exposed. At least, this was the expectation (and in some cases still is) but Trinidad politics being what it is (and have always been), is a ‘goose and gander’ system of politics. We drive by the Palaces of sitting members of the Opposition down south everyday and wonder how come they could afford the wealth and fortunes to construct such palaces for their families, while we working people struggle to put food in the mouths of ours. Then these same people boast that “we were living in paradise when Kamla headed the government, but now we are in a failed state of governance”. Paradise? what paradise?

    Dr Rowley gave us hope that his administration would be better and we believed. But many of us are beginning to wonder. What exactly is Dr. Rowley doing????? As far as the Ferry Service is concerned, why can’t we allow the administration of the ferry service to be run by the THA? We do not have the same concerns in Tobago when service is being administered by officials of that government. Corruption is the beast that is Trinidad and will continue to be that until we have responsible officials who are willing to take the bull by its horns and say “enough is enough”.
    We are saddened to see “fiasco after fiasco” in Dr. Rowley’s administration, only to be berated by the same old trickster Kamla, hoping to be given another chance to continue where she left off. We who supported Dr. Rowley are beginning to get tired of some of his very public mistakes:
    1. The firing of Nicole Olivierre
    2. The sidelining of Brig. Antoine
    3. The Marlene McDonald “on again off again” appointments
    4. The decision to liquidate CLF – very peeved
    5. The Ferry Service procurements
    6. Lack of accountability to the people who elected the PNM

    These are vexing concerns and we are fed up with electing people for the past 55 years who, when elected turn their backs on us to help out others then return to us again and again when they want to get back in power. We are dissatisfied with that kind of leadership Dr. Rowley.

  • The idea that a T&T government can own and do everything in a country is outrageous. The first thing is when a new government comes into office they believe that they should change everything. Whether it is working or not everything has to change. They will not thrust that the government before did any good work. The priorities of the incoming government outweigh the priorities of the outgoing government. Forget about the priorities of the citizens.

    Look at the ferries. They were working. The new government refused to renew the contract of the cargo ferry. And they refused. They put out tenders that showed that there were no bidders. Sorry, for the first tender there was one bidder, the Galacia. It was rejected. The second tender saw no bidders. The third tender had one bidder, a boat that was a cruise ship that would be converted if given the contract. In the meanwhile the owners of the Galacia, having no contract sold the boat to someone else. The new owners purchased because they had use for it, and since they had no contract saw no reason to let the boat stay in T&T.

    Then we needed a different way of dealing with the fast ferries. The Canadian company, the first one, was operating fine. They had begun to learn the needs of the travelling public. The drydocking was taking place at non-peak periods. It was working. But the new government had to put their stamp of approval. They should now accept it.

    And I don’t want anyone fired. These are all cabinet decisions and if someone has to take the blame it is the head of the cabinet.

    I remember the hospital in Tobago. It was only finished because the PP government decided to complete it. Then the Chief Secretary want the keys so that he could open it. Where was he for the preceding eight or more years?? They all forget the needs of the population/citizens/voters.

  • “The ferries are systemic of societal problems”.
    Well this is another put me to sleep headline. The ferry was working well in fact too well until the PNM decided to fix it. The super fast Galicia replaced with Cobo and a sick Ocean Flower. The Galicia costing $112,000 per day, whilst the two ferries costing $346,500 per day.

    The kickbacks for these two ferries would have fatten the pockets of PNM financiers in a matter of months. Only problem is the two ferries are incompatible to TnT needs. And so the song and dance continues.

  • Raff this is not a systemic problem- it is and has always been the modus operandi of the PNM. Please do not lump us together as being incompetent because the Chairman of the PATT, Allison Lewis has just demitted the PS Ministry of Finance and she has learnt nothing about procurement. From the beginning when I saw them getting rid of the Galicia that had a good performance record I concluded that graft and corruption is afoot for someone to benefit. They should have accessed the IMO on London for assistance in assessing the technical capability and suitability of any replacement ferry. There are many people in T&T who could have done a better job at securing a ferry service for Tobago that the PNM cannot do. Stop classifying all of us as being as incompetent as the PNM past and present. They are just loud mouthers.

    • Well said. Rowley hired an investigator, something the Constitution does not allow. When they ask the investigator do you have any experience in investigating he said NO and he ain’t doing any forensic investigation. What??? To investigate you must carry the weight of office to check with the Panamainians, the Koreans, the Canadians…. You must understand maritime laws, You must understand procurement laws, this dude has no legal qualifications.
      And if nobody wants to cooperate he cannot force them to.
      This is Rowley way of buying time.

      • Great observation Mammo… But how far will Dr. Rowley go to protect Rohan Sinanan? I wonder how come Stephen did not make a ‘racial spin’ on this fiasco?

        SK wrote:*Raff this is not a systemic problem- it is and has always been the modus operandi of the PNM.*

        But, Davant Maharaj and GOPIO, can you please come and take away Rohan Sinanan… he is stinking up my Father’s party…

        -Rohan’s ‘big people party’ *
        Rowley, Jack, Ish among those in attendance…
        Published on Dec 12, 2015, 7:49 pm AST
        By Asha Javeed and Denyse Renne

        Published on Dec 12, 2015, 7:49 pm AST
        By Asha Javeed and Denyse Renne

        PRIME Minister Dr Keith Rowley says he did nothing wrong by attending a party hosted by his deputy political leader in which corruption-accused Jack Warner and businessman Ishwar Galbaransingh were in attendance.-


        I hear people saying that ‘we’ need to form an ‘alternative’ party for Africans to get representation in T&T….
        I say if .04% of the population and a few UNC Indians can ‘Capture’ the PNM… We don’t need to form any other party… we just need to TAKE BACK ‘OUR’ party from these infiltrators… and sack Rowley in the process…
        They say Chambers was Duncee… But what they go say bout Rowley? Anyway… we can’t afford to sit back wait and see…

  • Having just read that Mouttet is doing this probe free of charge for the Rowley administration, really creates more ‘smoke’ as to speculation of possible favours for this businessman ‘down the road’.

    • Have you ever heard of a businessman doing an investigation for free? He is deeply embedded in PNM and the favour will be returned. But it is a good PR excercise.

  • We no longer only have two options…we have a third…PEP..Progressive Empowerment Party…(PEP)

    Have a look at their policies and remidies…i would strongly recommend that you have a listen to what they have to say ad forget the BS from the racist politics of the PNM and UNC…


    • Stuppes… What PNM racial politics… please elaborate? Thank you.

      • I did not just say PNM i also said UNC and if you don’t know by now then…

        • Oh Please… I was not born yesterday… Besides the PNM’s ‘obsession’ with being an ‘all inclusive’ party at the expense of it ‘base’.. The PNM is a world class party… It is the spirit of what is T&T.

          Very few nations could have been held together as T&T was/is…

          Have a great weekend…

    • Do your peptic campaigning elsewhere. Have your leader walk the street naked that will ensure media coverage.

      • Not campaigning just informing that we have a sensible choice and comments like your means that you are uninformed and clueless..

  • It would be foolish of me to engage in the futility of partisan comments. There are those who are obviously pushing UNC politics in the conversation and I believe that such tactics are counter productive for any objective outcome.

    What we are discussing here is a behavior by government officials, that can easily be identified as corruptive policies, which we need to call out loudly and ask that corrective action take place. Whether it is called bobol, corruption or partisan overkill, we need to call out mismanagement for what it is. There are those who want us to believe that mismanagement under another banner of government is OK, especially if they might want to label it differently. The idea that a white Trinidadian has been asked to probe the this unfortunate turn of events, is not pleasing to some in the Opposition. But that kind of beliefs should be denounced just as vehemently as those uttered towards the PNM (and in some cases the UNC). We need to temper hate, especially when it is uttered through political lenses. What is more troubling, is when it is muttered as either an intellectual thought or observation. There is need to have white Trinidadians play an important role in the running of our governments. The words and condemnation uttered by the Opposition Leader seems to suggest that people like Mr Moutet should not be trusted with any degree of confidence to be objective and compassionate. We should condemn such notions, even if they are uttered in political terms.

    Our fellow white Trinidadians, should not feel afraid or constrained, by the seemingly authoritative dictates of a larger minority population group, that has risen to heights of almost equal economic stature. In political terms, we are sometimes forced to identify with either the PNM or the UNC. This is a false notion that we should fall in line with such a peurile suggestion and as Trinidadians we should reject it. This kind of posturing is wrong and undemocratic. All of our people should feel an equal obligation to contribute towards the development of our country, regardless of race, color or creed. It is true that history gave the Europeans in our society the edge in determining what directions we should trend towards but that in itself does not mean that we should ignore their presence and the contributions they can make towards a better society.

    So when Kamla wants us to believe that Mr. Moutet should not be considered trustworthy enough to probe into the running of our government, she is dead wrong in her pursuit.
    Equally among the contributors, are some in this blog. There are those who try to minimize the efforts of the privileged whites in our society, to make their contributions count. This attitude is both undemocratic and racist.

    Mr. Moutet should be allowed to take up the challenge that was accorded him by the Prime Minister, to investigate and report on the systemic failure of the shipping service between Trinidad and Tobago. When he produces his report, Kamla and her cohorts may register their observations and opinions as they see fit, but in the meantime allow the gentleman to do what he was appointed to do.

  • I was pleased to read in the editorial page of the Express an article written about journalism, in which the author finally hit at what is wrong with reporting in this country. The way we deal with news in this country is like getting our news from the National Enquirer – short on facts, short on context and tall on innuendos. Content and context almost always appear to be in short supple and as such make the balancing of information suspect. It is not education nor academical achievements that make the news unpalatable, it is the formula for presenting the news that make it unbelievable stupid.

    “…..news reporting has to move to the phase of fact-checking and contextual journalism…..” Keith Subero. News that are generally fed to us, are one-sided and tends to run parallel with the political nature of the source from which it was generated. In Trinidad for example during the 2015 general elections, reporting was usurped by the UNC government. Ninety percent of the commercials were bombarded by the UNC telling us that “Kamla got a plan”. That is NOT informing the public, that is bombarding or force feeding information which we may or may not want to absorb, because another point ofd view was not offered. It therefore becomes not a matter of news or information but a matter of who could pay the piper more money to flood us with the same monotonous views that the news medium want to force upon us.
    In the stated example, the listeners were not faced with an alternative to Kamla because they were paid and only wanted us to believe what Kamla wants us to know. What about the competition and alternative to “her plan”?. Our media need to be more inclusive, comparative, objective and informative in presenting news for public consumption.

    Media has become a business proposition like any other in the industrial complex – a for profit venture. What differentiates publication of news is that it is expected to be fact driven and a believable source of information irrespective of content. Context becomes a matter of how it is to be presented for impact.
    In the history of our media, there have been many famous publication where some of our best journalists were trained.
    Ken Gordon did not just become a household name because of the spelling of his name. It is the prowess of his performance as a newsman and authenticity of the work he produced that made him what he is today. What we need in journalism today are journalists who want to become and exceed the Ken Gordon of the past.

  • It is my opinion that the PM asked Mouttet to investigate this imbroglio because when one reads the clinical and analytical article by Kevin Baldeosingh it is not difficult to see how academics like Farrel and Ryan show comprehensively how that Syrian/Lebanese community underpins root problems and transform them to success. The CSO stats are interesting in this article especially the % that owns companies and employees compared to the % with O levels and tertiary education.


    How is it that companies such as AS Bryden, Geo.F Huggins, LJ Williams etc. can experience growing pains and yet be a success in both expansion and profits and while an organization like CLICO needs billions of tax paying dollars to rescue it? As soon as CL financial put their hands in acquiescing Angostura – tables turn! Why? Which Lebanese/Syrian company needed such ginormous financial aid? Why are we so adept to attribute negative comments such as drug money for Syrian success and not towards an organization such as CLICO during it’s hey day?

    Therefore, the PM needs the support of his people including Sinanan and company to extend his political life but in his heart he knows that accountability is possible for this fiasco with some unilateral report for the public from a competent business man. Setting up an investigative committee can result in some tainted content and context, why risk it? Incompetence in the process does not bother him now.

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