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PostSubject: $53m FLOTSAM   $53m FLOTSAM I_icon_minitimeMon Mar 31, 2014 5:45 pm

THE Government has a multi-million-dollar headache it is trying to get rid of—the MV Su.

Since the People’s National Movement (PNM) Government purchased the Su in 2008 through the National Infrastructure Development Company (NIDCO) for $25 million to be used as a water taxi, it has never sailed a day.

In fact, $27 million has been spent on repairs and maintenance, more than the purchase price.

To date, a total of $53.5 million of taxpayers’ money has been spent on the Su, which will sink if it makes a short voyage from Chaguaramas to the Waterfront Complex, Port of Spain, says Transport Minister Devant Maharaj.

Some $67,000 a month is currently being spent just to keep the MV Su berthed at the Inter Isle Construction Co Ltd dockyard in Chaguaramas, where it has been for almost four years.
But the MV Su is just part of the problem. To add to the headache, there are three other vessels—HC Katia, HC Olivia and HC Milancia—purchased in 2008 for $36 million at $12 million each.

These three vessels are currently not functioning and are packed away at the Coast Guard facility in Chaguaramas. There is no place there to store the MV Su, so money has to be forked out to keep it at a private dockyard, said Maharaj.

Like the MV Su, the other ships are also up for sale. These three vessels sailed from December 2008 to September 2010 in the water taxi service, with a maintenance cost of close to $10 million from 2009 to 2011.

Since 2008 to now, approximately $100 million has been spent on these four boats.

The Express yesterday went on an exclusive tour of the MV Su with Minister Maharaj and Sharon Taylor, director of the Water Taxi Service.

The MV Su, a passenger ship with a capacity for 600 people, was purchased with the intention of using it on the water taxi service.

For $25 million one would have expected to see a spanking new ship with modern facilities.

The MV Su is far from that, based on what the Express saw.
The ship is rusting all over and the upholstery is worn out. No one wants to buy the MV Su for anything near what was spent on it.

Maharaj said advertisements were placed internationally in November 2011 for the sale of the MV Su and two persons were interested in buying the ship...for its scrap metal—for $560,000 and $550,000, respectively.

He said Cabinet advised advertisements be placed locally to see if anyone would offer a better price in an effort to reclaim some of the costs.

The company Astralship completed a valuation survey for the MV Su and submitted a valuation ranging between US$50,000 and US$100,000 for the vessel based on its age, its existing condition, its current location at a dockyard in Trinidad, as well as the prevailing conditions within the second-hand market.
Maharaj questioned what procurement process was used during the PNM regime to purchase the MV Su.

“Perhaps we should send a copy of the ad to Balisier House for Dr Rowley and Mr Imbert to have a look at and offer a price,” he said to Taylor.

An employee of Inter Isle, where the MV Su is berthed, told the Minister that when the ship came into the dockyard in 2008, the company was mandated to re-paint it.

“When we blasted it (MV Su) we saw big pits and stopped immediately and called the Minister. There was a kind of paste which is like filler, when it was blasted, all that was left was pits all over,” he said.

What is startling behind the story of the MV Su is all the summary costs associated with the vessel after $25 million was paid for it.

Some $4.1 million was paid to transport the MV Su from Turkey to St Thomas and another $3 million to tow it from St Thomas to Curacao, where it underwent repairs.
In Curacao, millions were spent to repair the MV Su...and it still could not sail.

The MV Su was towed from Curacao to Trinidad and to give the impression that it was working well, it was allowed to sail into Inter Isle dock yard with the service of one of its engines--a distance of about 300 feet, said the Inter Isle employee.
The Express obtained a copy of all these costs, which included hundreds of thousands of dollars in consultancy fees and services.

In Curacao, major repairs were undertaken. Some of the costs include $1.3 million to S.E.L Maduro and Sons for repairs.
Another $1.1 million was paid to N.V. Curacaose Dok Maatshappi for more repairs.

Some $1.2 million was paid to a company, D. Hughes, for stainless steel sea water pipe removal work on the MV Su.
For 2008 to 2011, a total of $6.9 million was paid to Inter Isle Construction Co Ltd for berth and additonal repairs to the MV Su.

The cheapest expense on the list for the MV Su was the purchase of a flag for the vessel from Brian White and Associates for $4,324.

Contacted yesterday for comment, former works and transport minister Colm Imbert distanced himself from the MV Su.
“I had nothing to do with that, I was not involved, a lot of the information in the public domain is not accurate,” he said. Imbert said all questions should be to former minister in the Ministry of Works and Transport, Roger Joseph, who he said went to Turkey and conducted all transactions with respect to the purchase of the MV Su.
Efforts to reach Joseph proved futile.
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