Trinidad defends multi-million dollar agreement to purchase vessels from Australia

Trinidad defends multi-million dollar agreement to purchase vessels from Australia

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The Trinidad and Tobago government has defended the procurement measures used to purchase four vessels from Australia and accused the main opposition United National Congress (UNC) of seeking “to sully the country’s image and its name purely for personal political advantage.”

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley told Parliament that the multi-million dollar project would result in the acquisition of two passenger fast ferries from the Australian ship builders, INCAT Australia Pty Limited (INCAT) and Austal Limited (Austal) to service the sea bridge between Trinidad and Tobago.

He said that Austal will also build two Cape Class Patrol vessels from for the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard (TTCG).

He said his administration would pursue financing arrangements with EFIC, the Australian government’s export credit agency, which arranges financing for the purchase of Australian products for export, including marine vessels as well as from the Australian government regarding the purchase of the vessels estimated at more than US$145 million.

“So Madame Speaker, to have the Opposition questioning the procurement of the two ordered fast ferries and the two Cape Class Patrol vessels from INCAT and Austal and to have them bringing the country into disrepute by writing to the Attorney General of Australia making completely unfounded and spurious allegations is quite difficult to swallow knowing fully well how they conducted themselves before,” Rowley said in his detailed statement to legislators outlining the discussions held with the various stakeholders on the acquisition.

He said the procurement process used by the government “can withstand all scrutiny and is untainted.

“It is the view of this government and should also be a concern to all our citizens that there are persons in and out of office in Trinidad and Tobago who would sully the country’s image and its name purely for personal political advantage here in Trinidad and Tobago.

“This government condemns the invitation to the Australian Opposition to oppose this assistance by their government and the UNC’s approach to the Attorney General’s office in Australia, in their futile attempt to embroil the government of Australia and people of Trinidad and Tobago in a contrived fabricated “scandal” without a shred of information or evidence to support such misconduct.”

Rowley said that the level of transparency associated with “this watershed business relationship between Australia and Trinidad and Tobago is largely unknown in the conduct of public business in our country and should be viewed as a template for future dealings.

“As such this government is proud of our diplomatic success which has resulted in the benefits I have outlined …and once again I wish to thank the government and people of Australia for their outstanding support and recognition of Trinidad and Tobago as a valuable trade and business partner in the Commonwealth of Nations,” Rowley said.

Rowley reminded legislators that the previous government had acquired a Chinese vessel for the Coast Guard here purely on the whims of the then prime minister Kamla Persad Bissessar.

“There was no proper evaluation as to the suitability of the vessel for the TTCG and there was no financing in place for the payment for the vessel. As far, as we are aware, the Chinese vessel was procured by the former prime minister on a whim, seeing a vessel in China and declaring that she “wanted one like that”.

“It also fell to this government to determine financing arrangements and to complete negotiations and pay for this vessel after it was delivered to us here,” Rowley told Parliament.

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