PM: $263,580 a day for Jean de la Vallette

The con­tro­ver­sial Jean de la Valette fer­ry is be­ing leased by Gov­ern­ment for 34,500 Eu­ros a day, Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley has con­firmed.

With the cur­ren­cy con­ver­sion rate at TT$7.64 to one Eu­ro, the 34,500 dai­ly Eu­ro rate which Row­ley gave in Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day works out to be about TT$263, 580 a day for the fer­ry.

Row­ley gave the dai­ly lease cost while re­ply­ing to Op­po­si­tion ques­tions af­ter Unit­ed Na­tion­al Con­gress whip David Lee sought the cost of leas­ing the fer­ry, in­clud­ing crew, sup­plies and se­cur­ing it.

Row­ley said the 34,500 Eu­ro dai­ly rate was the over­all cost of leas­ing and op­er­at­ing the fer­ry. He didn’t have fig­ures on the cost to re­lo­cate the ves­sel (from Eu­rope) to T&T. He said en­gi­neer­ing as­sess­ments for dredg­ing the Port of Port-of-Spain to ac­com­mo­date the ves­sel are cur­rent­ly be­ing made. As soon as this cost is fi­nalised and work com­plet­ed, he said Par­lia­ment would be in­formed.

The ves­sel is be­ing leased for a year (with op­tion for six more months) to as­sist the To­ba­go fer­ry ser­vice. It re­cent­ly gen­er­at­ed con­tro­ver­sy due to is­sues con­cern­ing its back­ground.

Yes­ter­day, af­ter Row­ley gave the ves­sel’s dai­ly lease cost, UNC sen­a­tor Sad­dam Ho­sein took is­sue with the dai­ly (TT) quar­ter mil­lion cost to tax­pay­ers, which he point­ed out was high­er than the costs to lease the Su­per Fast Gali­cia and even Cabo Star ves­sels.

Ho­sein said, “Gov­ern­ment has tak­en a de­ci­sion to have tax­pay­ers foot this ob­scene­ly high cost of 34,500 Eu­ros per day - just over quar­ter mil­lion dol­lars a day - which at the end of its one-year lease would have cost the pub­lic over TT$91 mil­lion.”

Ho­sein not­ed that the cost to lease the Su­per Fast Gali­cia was US$17,500 a day (ap­prox TT$117, 425) and the Cabo Star was US$22,500 a day (TT$150, 975). The dai­ly cost of an­oth­er leased fer­ry, the Ocean Flower 11 was US$26,500 (ap­prox TT$185,500). That con­tract was ter­mi­nat­ed in Au­gust 2017.

“These costs are nowhere close to the Jean de la Valette’s cost. Since this ves­sel comes with the op­tion to lease for an ad­di­tion­al six months, the PNM could even end up bur­den­ing tax­pay­ers with a $136 mil­lion bill over­all. This may be the most ex­pen­sive ves­sel any Gov­ern­ment’s leased and it comes with a back­ground of al­leged de­fects and ar­bi­tra­tion trou­ble.”

Ho­sein added, “Apart from the fact this cost rais­es more ques­tions, we’re al­so still un­aware of the ad­di­tion­al costs re­lat­ed to this ves­sel: cost to mo­bilise the ves­sel to T&T, to dredge the Port to ac­com­mo­date it, le­gal fees and oth­er as­so­ci­at­ed ex­pens­es.

“NID­CO’s al­so con­firmed the ves­sel would re­quire a ramp for pas­sen­gers, ve­hi­cles and car­go to dis­em­bark - so that cost is still to come al­so, as well as the cost of the of­fi­cers who trav­elled to Mal­ta to in­spect this ves­sel.”

He added: “Why is such a high-cost fer­ry nec­es­sary for a year? Are tax­pay­ers - or who’s re­al­ly ben­e­fit­ting from this deal? Where is Gov­ern­ment go­ing to find the mon­ey for this ves­sel, con­sid­er­ing the Fi­nance Min­is­ter re­cent­ly said cash was ‘tight?’”

On oth­er Op­po­si­tion queries yes­ter­day, Row­ley dis­missed as “UNC gos­sip” queries on “swirling re­ports” that a min­is­ter - who’s a ma­jor­i­ty share­hold­er in the for­mer Kay Don­na dri­ve-in be­ing ac­quired for the Curepe In­ter­change - re­ceived $100 mil­lion in com­pen­sa­tion.

Row­ley said, “I don’t re­spond to ru­mours, gos­sip and mis­chief on ‘re­ports swirling’ - I know of no ‘swirling re­ports’. I know of no min­is­ter who re­ceived any mon­ey or any $100 mil­lion. This is just UNC gos­sip!”

Row­ley al­so said ap­pro­pri­ate prepa­ra­tions are be­ing made by the Fi­nance Min­istry on the re­cent­ly an­nounced Hous­ing Bonds’ and it’s an­tic­i­pat­ed the min­istry would be in a po­si­tion to ad­dress this in the mid-year re­view.

 - by Gail Alexander

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