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Ocean Flower 2 arrives in T&T

Published: 
Thursday, September 21, 2017
Bridgemans makes new sea bridge tender
The Ocean Flower 2 docked off Chaguaramas, yesterday. PICTURE SHIRLEY BAHADUR

The Ocean Flower 2 passenger ferry is now in Trinidad and Tobago waters and its owner Bridgemans Services Group Limited says the vessel is here for “a pre-planned dry-docking” following its repositioning from Asia. However, Bridgemans has also put in a new bid for the sea bridge and had a representative present during public tenders opened by the Port Authority of T&T yesterday.

The vessel docked at Chaguaramas just before 2 pm yesterday, the same day tenders closed and were publicly opened by the PATT for a new passenger ROPAX ferry for the sea bridge. The T&T Guardian understands six people tendered. One person submitted three boats, another five and four others submitted one each. The Ocean Flower 2 was among the single tenderers.

In an emailed response last evening, Bridgemans vice president Andrew Purdey confirmed they had “issued a fully compliant bid proposal in alignment with the tender offer” and the vessel offered was the Ocean Flower 2.

The Ocean Flower 2 contract was cancelled on August 8 after it failed to meet three deadlines (July 17, 26 and August 1) for arrival here, then at a lease cost of US$26,500 daily. In an exclusive interview with GML in late August, Purdey admitted the cancellation was in keeping with the exit clause of the contract which dealt with late arrival. He said then, however, that the vessel had suffered “catastrophic engine failure, losing a bearing and a piston” on its journey from Korea to the Caribbean. When the vessel got to Panama, Purdey said “we did work from head to toe.”

Yesterday, Purdey said the vessel is now “fully certified and ready for service” and confirmed the company was in possession of an irrevocable standby letter of credit in the amount of US$3 million which is contained in the Charter Party Agreement with the PATT. He said the stand-by letter of credit was not cancelled when the PATT cancelled the Ocean Flower 2 contract. Purdey could shed no light on why the letter of credit was not cancelled or whether the PATT was bound to accept the Ocean Flower2, saying “this is all under discussion with the client and only they can comment.”

But on August 21 following a meeting with stakeholders in Tobago, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley had made it clear the Government was not interested in the Ocean Flower 2 when told reports were that the vessel was still reportedly coming to T&T.

The PM said then: “As far as I am aware, the Port Authority, advising the Government, the Ministry, has advised the principals of that boat that their contractual arrangements have ceased. The owners are free to travel with their boat on any ocean they wish, but coming to Trinidad and Tobago, the contractual arrangements have been terminated for cause.”

The timing of the vessel’s arrival yesterday was curious given the close of tenders for a passenger ferry.

The T&T Guardian was told yesterday that ship’s local agent Lester Kenny, of Ken Shipping and Marine, had written to the Immigration manager on September 8 indicating the vessel would arrive on September 12 for dry-docking. It only arrived yesterday.

Purdey insisted yesterday that this was a “pre-planned dry-docking to install the T-Foil’s following its repositioning from Asia.” He said while the vessel is ready for service “as is,” installation of the T-Foils would “improve ship ride performance and speed,” a process which would take less than a week.

Purdey said while the vessel was not en route to another port that “may change by the hour” as they had been asked, through a broker on behalf of FEMA, to “support the humanitarian efforts in the Caribbean” following the recent hurricane damage suffered by several countries. But he said they were “only in negotiations and nothing was certain at this time.”

Contacted yesterday, Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan referred all questions on why the vessel was here to the PATT and Bridgemans. However, he said as far as he was concerned the contract for the Ocean Flower 2 was “terminated and that is as far as where we are.”

As for the vessel arriving here, he said “those questions are better answered by the owner.”

Sinanan said tenders invited by the PATT for a passenger ferry closed yesterday and he “will support the outcome of that tender.”

MINISTRY: CREDIT LETTER VOID

The Ministry of Works and Transport is insisting that the presence of the Ocean Flower 2’s in this country “is not related to the terminated contract.”

In a statement yesterday, the Ministry said the vessel is here “relative to a dry docking exercise being undertaken by its owners.”

With regard to the stand by letter of credit, the ministry said because the Ocean Flower 2 was terminated, “such letter of credit cannot be drawn down by Bridgemans Services Group.”

It said the letter of credit will come to an end “at its natural effluxion of time in September 2018” and as such “the interests of the public are not in any way exposed or compromised.”