Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 24th 2013 Contents JOSHUA SURTEES
In the wake of the Harbour Mas-
ter party boat accident last Sunday,
a leading maritime legal expert has
told the T&T Guardian there are
few rules and regulations governing
boats that sail in T&T waters.
Company official Adrian Scoon,
commenting on safety measures on
the vessel in the wake of the incident,
has said there were enough life jackets
and life rafts for the crew and pas-
But attorney Nyree Alfonso, who
has specialised in maritime law for
the past 20 years, says because the
boat is not a cargo or fishing vessel,
there are no laws regulating how
much safety equipment it must carry.
She warned that there is an urgent
need to "improve our maritime reg-
ulatory framework, legislation,
machinery and resources," before a
more serious accident occurs.
The Maritime Services Division is
responsible for the administration
and safety of all vessels in T&T
waters, but there are grey areas and,
Alfonso argues, a "lack of will" over
the enforcement of legislation.
The Maritime Services Division
has the power to board a party vessel
to make safety checks, but Maritime
Services Division director Beverley
Phillips could not confirm the last
time this was done.
Within certain inshore waters,
boats are routinely boarded by pilots
from the T&T Pilots Association,
who steer vessels through waters lit-
tered with shipwrecks beneath the
surface, the T&T Guardian was told.
But Trevor Duncan, of the Pilots
Association, said boats like the Har-
bour Master are exempt from this
procedure, along with passenger fer-
ries, T&T Coast Guard boats and the
Port-of-Spain to San Fernando water
Alfonso said Sunday's accident
could not have been prevented by
any amount of legislation, but noted
there are areas around the coast in
which pretty much anything goes.
"Once you're not in a designated
harbour area you are free to party.
The (party boats) do it in Chaguara-
mas, Port-of-Spain, Claxton Bay,"
she said, confirming that boat owners
can do virtually anything they like
with their boat in T&T waters.
"People come and mothball their
vessels here off the coast, leaving
them with a skeleton crew.
"An oil tanker once sat off the
coast for years. I went on board to
check on the welfare of the crew and
found nobody onboard. They had all
left the boat to go drinking in the
Other boats, Alfonso said, can be
simply abandoned and left to sink
The incident last Sunday appears
to be the result of a combination of
a particularly low tide and the fact
the boat was weighed down by the
540 passengers on board. Passengers
continued partying when assured
they were safe and the Coast Guard
carried out a rescue that communi-
cations manager Lt Col Kirk Jean-
Baptiste said was paid for by the
He added, "You can't expect peo-
ple to pay for their own rescue, that's
Captain Wendell Lopez has not
been available for an interview since
the incident, but has been absolved
of blame by all parties, including
Alfonso and Jean-Baptiste.
Duncan said any submerged wreck
is supposed to be marked so that
captains are aware of its position in
The Harbour Master does not have
the kind of GPS system that scans
the sea to gauge its depth and alert
the captain to obstructions. Without
GPS, Lopez would have been
unaware of the unmarked wreck.
Asked why T&T did not have an
adequate ship registry system, Alfon-
so said shipping had been sidetracked
over the past few decades. She said
industry had sought to capitalise on
natural oil and gas reserves and, as
a result, no effort or resources had
been put into developing the shipping
industry and the rules and regulations
that govern it.
Neither Phillips nor Scoon was
able to tell the T&T Guardian
whether the Harbour Master is reg-
istered in this country or abroad.
Alfonso says many local boat own-
ers do not register their boats in T&T,
but in St Vincent, Panama or
Antigua, where the shipping registry
system is more developed and able
to cope with regulating shipping
Local Government Minister Dr Suruj Ram-
bachan says the National Development Centre
for Persons with Disabilities project will be deliv-
ered $647,732.97 under budget.
He made the comment yesterday in response to
allegations levelled by interim Independent Liberal
Party leader Jack Warner that the construction of
the centre had skyrocketed to $36 million in cost
The final figure for the project stands at
$14,877,997.97, Rambachan said yesterday as he
addressed a media conference at the project's Carlsen
Field, Chaguanas, site.
Rambachan, the line minister for Community
Improvement Services Ltd (CISL)---the company
managing the project---described Warner's accu-
sations, which were made during a political meeting
last week, as "very wild allegations."
"There were no cost overruns on this job," Ram-
bachan declared as he commended the contractor,
Super Industrial Services (SIS,) for delivering the
project under budget.
The centre is scheduled to be opened next week.
Rambachan, joined by Minister of the People
Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh at the project site, said
the initial budget for the CISL-controlled project
was $15.525 million.
However, he said: "The job actually cost
$14,877,997.12. This job was done under budget to
the sum of $647,732.97."
He said the project "is an example of the efficiency
and effectiveness of the Government of T&T of
managing projects within costs and within budg-
et."Rambachan said there were two components to
a building, the actual physical building and the
outfitting costs of equipment, et cetera. He said
the building costs were under budget, but the out-
fitting costs for the building were still being cal-
The minister, armed with his figures, said the
job for the centre included a contingency amount.
The contingency amount, he explained, was used
for the specific purposes of site preparation at a
cost of $63,000, delays claims ($41,000), a structural
steel ramp ($366,000), additional water connection
($50,000), a capital contribution for electricity
connection ($242,000) and $743,000 in variations.
He explained that even with those costs, the
building was still under budget.
Rambachan also defended using SIS. He dismissed
allegations that SIS was being favoured for con-
"We do not have any favourite contractors," he
"People are given the opportunity in open com-
petitive bidding to bid for projects at CISL (et cetera)
and through the Central Tenders Board. If people
pre-qualify and they are able to do the job and
they satisfy the requirements, as well as the financial
requirements, then they are awarded the contracts."
Ramadharsingh, addressing the media, said he
was pleased with the building. He said it was a
"dream come true" and the culmination of eight
months of discussions with 14 disability groups in
The centre, he explained, will cater for most dis-
abilities and provide therapy rooms so patients
from long distances in south Trinidad will not have
to journey to Port-of-Spain for treatment.
He said the building will be manned by ministry
staff, but it is hoped that the centre will be taken
over by a disability organisation.
CISL CEO Raees Patel said construction began
in mid-November 2012.
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Saturday, August 24, 2013
Suruj knocks Jack for wild allegations
Disabilities centre $.6m under budget...
In wake of Harbour Master incident...
Expert: Fix maritime laws
Minister of the People and Social Development Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh assists
painters to complete the finishing touches on the Centre for Persons with Disabilities
during a tour of the facility at Carlsen Field, Chaguanas, yesterday.
PHOTO: KRISTIAN DE SILVA
Passengers who were rescued from the Harbour Master stand on board a
Coast Guard cutter waiting to disembark at the Breakfast Shed terminal in
Port-of-Spain, last Sunday night, after the boat ran aground in the Gulf of
Paria while on a party cruise. PHOTO: JUSTYN D. MAYERS
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