Month: June 2018

TTT to be rebranded and vacancies to be filled- Young

The Government has moved up the date for the official launch of T&T Television (TTT) to as early as next month.

This was revealed by Communications Minister Stuart Young at yesterday’s post Cabinet media briefing.

“CNMG is going to be rebranded as TTT. So any previous decision taken or any previous talk about shutting down CNMG that is not going to happen. We are going to go and rebrand TTT,” Young said.

He is hoping to do this by July.

On Tuesday, Lisa Agard was appointed as CNMG chairman. This board, Young insisted was not transitionary.

“They are the board I expect to lead the charge and rebrand CNMG into TTT. In that re-branding process there will be a lot of fresh programming. They will change the way the broadcast is now. There may be two radio stations involved in this whole process.”

The line-up of programming will include documentaries and news and a new logo will have to be chosen.

Next week, Young is expected to meet with staff of CNMG to inform them of the changes that are coming.

Questioned about what assurances will be given to workers about their jobs, Young said he has asked for information which was still coming to him.

“They are still in the process of setting up a separate Ministry of Communications. I never give assurances but what I can tell you is that, right now from what they have told me, the initial numbers… there are vacancies to be filled.”

Last August, then Communications Minister Maxie Cuffie stated that Cabinet took a decision to wind up State-owned CNMG and restart the media house under TTT which was well known for programmes as Community Dateline and Panorama News.

Press Release- CNMG gets new board

The Cabinet has appointed a new board of directors to the Caribbean New Media Group (CNMG). The newly appointed members comprise:

  • Lisa Agard – Chairman
  • Karen Lynch – Member
  • Dr. Rita Pemberton – Member
  • Anthony Bullock – Member
  • Nadira Lyder – Member
  • Dr. Jameel Sulimani – Member

The Minister of Communications, the Honourable Stuart Young will be meeting with the new board to present them with their instruments of appointment and looks forward to discussing the exciting future of the rebranded TTT.

“The launch of the rebranded TTT will be taking place in the next few weeks at which time the population can expect new local programming which we hope will revolutionize the industry and create new opportunities,” said Minister Young.

 

Imbert and Mark clash over corruption claims surrounding Galleons Passage

“FAKE! Bogus! Not true!”

These were some of the words used yesterday by a heated Finance Minister Colm Imbert as he challenged Opposition Senator Wade Mark to produce evidence to support the United National Congress’ (UNC) claims that there was corruption in the acquisition of the US$17.4 million Galleons Passage fast ferry.

Imbert issued this challenge as he categorically refuted all of Mark’s claims during debate on a motion in the Senate.

Opposition senators groaned when Imbert began his response to Mark. “It must be the spirit,” quipped Imbert. What followed was a heated exchange, with Imbert and Mark trading words across the floor.

“Don’t get vex,” Mark told Imbert. “I must get vex. It’s foolishness!” Imbert countered.

Using documents in his possession and referring to his iPad, Imbert countered every claim made by Mark about the events which led to the Galleons Passage’s purchase last year. Imbert declared, “I call on Senator Mark, back up your false allegations! Back them up!”

Observing a recurring decimal in the UNC’s allegations was the use of a broker in the vessel’s purchase, Imbert challenged Mark, “to produce the paper trail to show where that fictional broker was in any way involved with the acquisition of this vessel.”

Imbert reiterated the Galleons Passage’s owner, “was corresponding directly with Government” to sell the vessel. He said because of this, “there was no broker.” Sea Lease Limited is the Galleons Passage’s seller and not Sea Transport Corporation of Australia. Imbert said Stuart Ballantyne is Sea Lease’s primary officer.

Showing a copy of the purchase document between Sea Lease and the Nidco for the Galleons Passage, Imbert said British law firm Haynes and Boone determined this was a, “straightforward commercial transaction. So I don’t know what all this tra la la is about!”

Imbert said he made it “crystal clear” six months ago that Government did not use an evaluation report by Oceanic Design and Survey (ODS) to buy the Galleons Passage. “I spoke in English! My words were clear.”

Referring to an evaluation done by Schulte Marine Concept, Imbert said, “They have valued this vessel at US$35 million.” Government was fortunate to purchase the vessel for US$17.4 million.” That was good enough for us,” Imbert said.

Steel cutting for the vessel happened on March 4, 2015. Steel laying happened on April 21, 2015. The Galleons Passage was launched on September 16, 2016. “You know what launching means? You put the hull in the water,” Imbert said.

This is followed by the installation of the engine, installation of the deck, outfitting, the instrumentation, electrics, transmission, mast and superstructure.

Given this sequence of events, Imbert said the Galleons Passage was never “launched and sailing all over the China Sea from 2016 to 2017.” In his contribution, Mark claimed the US$17.4 million payment for the Galleons Passage went into a private account. Mark said the UNC would write the Australian government, securities exchange commission and law enforcement if Imbert did not provide the Senate will all documents pertaining to the Galleons Passage’s purchase.

NIF is not for the “one percent”- Young

Communications Minister Stuart Young says the sale of bonds through the National Investment Fund (NIF) was not for the elite of the society and will not be manipulated like the First Citizens Bank (FCB) initial public offering (IPO) in 2013.

He was contributing to the debate on Monday night on the Corporation Tax (Amendment) Bill in the House of Representatives to allow bonds, profits and interest from the NIF to be tax free.

He said with the FCB IPO under the former administration, the process was manipulated by certain persons, who found loopholes and benefited at the expense of others.

“This NIF is designed for that not to happen. This NIF is designed to make sure that what they call the one per cent or what they call the elite and what they like to call as those who want to get the crown jewels of Trinidad and Tobago cannot get their hands on it.”

He said it was not for the PNM but for the people of Trinidad & Tobago, and added that with a minimum investment of $1,000 persons can purchase bonds, and that no financial institution or bank was offering a four per cent interest rate on $1,000.

The NIF was announced in the Budget last year, and will be underpinned by over 42 million Republic Financial Holding Ltd shares, worth $4 billion or 26 percent of Republic’s market capitalisation. The government acquired these shares as part of debt repayment from Clico Investment Bank, currently in liquidation.

Clico-backed bonds to be sold by Government

The Government’s highly-anticipated Initial Public Offering (IPO) for its National Investment Fund (NIF), through a company formed to monetise some assets recovered from the CLICO bailout, will run from July 11 to August 8.

The announcement was made yesterday by Finance Minister Colm Imbert in Parliament.

Imbert described the prospectus as a gift to keep on giving to the people of Trinidad and Tobago, from whom $23 billion in tax dollars was injected into the collapsed conglomerate.

The NIF will be founded with an assortment of shares pulled from various former portfolios of CLICO, with the majority coming from Republic Bank Limited valued at $4.3 billion and representing 55 per cent of the Fund.

The Government will also assign $200 million in One Caribbean Media (OCM) shares to represent two per cent of the company, $970 million from Angostura Holdings Ltd for 12 per cent of the Fund’s shares, Trinidad Generation Unlimited (TGU) at $2.025 billion with 26 per cent of shares and the West Indian Tobacco Company (WITCO) with $405 million at five per cent of the Fund’s shares.

NIDCO: Work on Ferry continues in Cuba

According to the National Infrastructure Development Company, the Galleons Passage will not be sailing to this country immediately, but will remain in Cuba to allow remedial work which the seller agreed to complete, with an estimated departure date of July 10 from Cuba.

Those works were identified as: the sealing of the gap between the ramp door and the hull of the vessel, fabrication and installation of the framing for the forward canopy on the vehicle deck, to protect against sea spray and installation of additional anchor rings to secure vehicles on the vehicle deck.

Nidco said those works were “specified in the Memorandum of Agreement, between Nidco and Sealease Limited of Hong Kong (the seller), to better equip the vessel for use on the seabridge.”

Nidco said the works being done are the “contractual responsibility of the seller,” and “all associated costs” are being borne by the seller.

On completion Nidco said the works will be “surveyed by the Classification Society’s surveyor, Lloyd’s Register, prior to the vessel’s departure from Cuba.”

Nidco said on its arrival in Trinidad, the owner’s proposed enhancements will be done on a phased basis, while the vessel is in service.

These enhancements include the installation of full canopies over the sundeck, installing and outfitting additional male and female washroom facilities on the sundeck, installing café/bar facilities on the starboard and port side of the sundeck, remodelling of urinals in the men’s washroom and removal of the existing trough urinals provided, and installing of fixing rails for new seating on the passenger deck, with the existing bench seating to be replaced with Beurteaux passenger contoured seats.

The Ferry should be in use between Trinidad and Tobago in time for the height of the July/August vacation provided there are no further keep backs, Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan said on Saturday.

Sinanan told the media: “Nidco said they should complete everything by July 10. It is just four days from Cuba to Trinidad. I can’t say what day the boat will be here but what I can say is when what is being done there is completed, it will not take more than four days to come to Trinidad.”

He added that Nidco was working with the director of maritime services to get the boat in use as soon as possible after arriving. Asked about concerns that there were undue delays owing to a failure by Nidco to send the necessary documentation to ports where the vessel docked en route to Cuba, Sinanan said the delays were not as a result of that. He added the docking at the ports in Miami and Panama was hampered only by the number of ships queued and not because of any man-made errors.

Nidco indicated that all requirements needed for the Galleons Passage to dock at ports en route to TT were handled by the vessel operator, International Maritime Services Pty Ltd (IMS), which specialises in transporting large vessels worldwide. Nidco added that all arrangements for requisite documents for docking were part of its contract with IMS to deliver the vessel to TT. Nidco also said there were no additional costs as a result of the delays and all associated costs for port docking were included in the contract fee with IMS.

The Government decided to bring the vessel to TT after Sea Transport Corporation of Australia, had difficulties in getting equipment to Cuba to complete the retrofitting works. “Any shipment coming from Australia would have to be offloaded in another port and transshipped, most likely more than once. That’s the problem. The seller reported that it was proving to be very difficult to find a way to ship the materials to Cuba, because it’s not a direct route and the US embargo was complicating the issue,” Imbert said.

He added: “It was a contractual responsibility of the seller to install a bow spray canopy to minimise spray during heavy or very choppy weather. He chose to to this work at the Damex shipyard. As part of the contract, we retained a significant sum as retention until this work is completed. So the seller has not yet been paid in full. We were very careful about this transaction, as you will appreciate. The work in Cuba was just taking too long, so we exercised our right to tell him to do the work in Trinidad.”

Phoenix Park Industrial Estate to be funded by China

Trinidad and Tobago is set to receive an economic boost following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Monday between China’s Beijing Construction Engineering Group Co. Ltd. (BCEG) and the Evolving Tecknologies and Enterprise Development Company Limited (eTeck), for the development of the Phoenix Park Industrial Estate, Point Lisas.

The MOU was signed by BCEG’s deputy general manager Zhang Chuancheng and Steve De Las, president of eTeck, and was witnessed by Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon as well as Vice Mayor of Beijing, His Excellency Wang Ning, who led a delegation from China. The industrial park, to be constructed by BCEG, will be implemented by Lake Asphalt Limited and eTeck.

Zhang Chuancheng, BCEG’s Deputy General Manager, second left, and eTeck’s president Steve De Las, second right, sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Monday for the development of an industrial estate at Phoenix Park, Point Lisas.

Gopee-Scoon, who held discussions with Wang Ning, stated that the signing serves to deepen the commercial relations between the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and the People’s Republic of China, adding that events like these are significant for her ministry since they open the way for new commercial and foreign direct investments into Trinidad and Tobago, which are fundamentally important to the country’s economic development.

Export-Import (Exim) Bank of China will finance the industrial park through a loan agreement in the amount of US$104,295,000. Beijing Construction Engineering Group has guaranteed the operations of at least 10 Chinese firms, with interest expressed in the areas of the manufacturing of glass powder, air conditioners and ceramics, paper converting operations, wood processing, communication equipment, building materials, integrated housing manufacturing and food processing. In the construction of the industrial park, a commitment has been made by the company to use 60 percent local labour and to purchase at least 50 percent of the building materials in T&T.

According to Gopee-Scoon, “Once fully operational, the new park would provide space for 60 to 80 factory shells, directly employ over 4,500 persons, with one thousand persons expected to be employed during the construction phase,” and added that the development of the new industrial park is expected to be completed within 12 months, and one major international investor has already been identified for the site.

She added that the park’s establishment promotes Government’s diversification efforts as it targets firms in the areas of high-value and light manufacturing, logistics and warehousing, and emerging industries such as electronic technology, information technology, energy-saving ecological building materials and biotechnology.

In delivering remarks on behalf of the Government at the signing ceremony, Communications Minister Stuart Young expressed appreciation for the responsiveness of the Chinese Government and its investors, and their reciprocal visit coming one month after Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s visit to China in May. Young also highlighted T&T’s lead role as the first country in the region to sign on to the Belt and Road Initiative being implemented by the Chinese Government.

Galleons Passage leaves Cuba for T&T

Acting Prime Minister, Colm Imbert has announced that the Galleons Passage has left Cuba for T&T. He said “The Government has taken a decision to bring the vessel to Trinidad immediately.”

The decision was made after the vessel’s seller, Sea Transport Corporation of Australia, was unable to complete retrofitting work in Cuba. The purchase agreement for the US$17.4 million catamaran involved separate upgrade works to be done by the seller (Sea Transport) and the buyer, the National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco).

Imbert explained that the seller made a contractual arrangement with the Damex Shipyard in Cuba to do work there on the Galleons Passage. Nidco had a separate contract with this shipyard to do its upgrade on the vessel. The Government was recently informed by the seller it could not bring some equipment and materials from Australia to Cuba to complete its work on Galleons Passage. This, Imbert said, was because Cuba is still an embargoed nation for many countries which did not make it easy for Cuba to receive shipments from nations like Australia.

As a result, Imbert said the Galleons Passage will be brought to T&T and, “be put into service very soon.”  Any outstanding enhancement work to be done on the vessel will be done in T&T on a phased basis. Imbert said this will happen, “while the boat is transporting passengers to and from Tobago.”

He dismissed Opposition claims that the vessel is not classified, saying that “The vessel was classified by Lloyd’s of London in its original condition as being suitable for coastal transport of passengers and cargo. The vessel is already classified.”

Imbert added that, “The enhancement works to be done on the vessel are simply to make the vessel more comfortable for the people of T&T” and reiterated that some retrofitting was done on the Galleons Passage in Cuba.

Later in the sitting, Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan said the cost of dry docking the TT Spirit was US$10,199,000. The repair and maintenance cost for the Express is US$807,117. Sinanan said the Spirit, which is now back on the seabridge, did not sail from May 15 2017 to April 16 this year.

On June 14, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young said the Government has received proposals for vessels from Australian shipbuilders Incat and Austal. Incat’s proposal is for two fast ferries. The Austal proposal is for two fast ferries and a Cape Class patrol boat for the Coast Guard. These proposals arose from Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s working visit to Australia last month.

Incat and Austal representatives will be invited within the next two weeks, after an evaluation committee has studied their proposals. “We want to proceed with those vessels as quickly as possible,” Young said.

MEDIA RELEASE – APPLICATIONS FOR INDIVIDUAL WORK PERMITS TO BE COMPLETED ONLY ON TTBIZLINK

MEDIA RELEASE

APPLICATIONS FOR INDIVIDUAL WORK PERMITS TO BE COMPLETED ONLY ON TTBIZLINK

20 June, 2018

The Ministry of National Security and the Ministry of Trade and Industry recently marked an important milestone with the announcement that all applications and extensions for Individual Work Permits will now be done online via TTBizLink at www.ttbizlink.gov.tt. This achievement signals a significant step forward for the Ministry of National Security and will result in a greatly enhanced application and processing experience and ultimately, more timely receipt of Individual Work Permits.

This accomplishment is the result of a period of close, collaborative partnership between the Work Permit Secretariat, Ministry of National Security and the TTBizLink Unit, Ministry of Trade and Industry. During this time, a concerted effort was made to refine the e-Work Permit Module on TTBizLink so that the user experience, both on the part of the applicant and the approver, would be more streamlined and efficient. In doing so, feedback from all stakeholders was carefully considered to ensure that all refinements would be value adding.

The e-Work Permit Module was launched on March 1, 2012 and since that time to now, eight hundred and forty five (845) companies and businesses have registered to access this Module. It is anticipated that this number will significantly increase given the full transition of the Individual Work Permits application system. Having realized this milestone, focus is now being placed on working toward the full transition to TTBizLink of Group Work Permits applications.

For further information persons can contact the Work Permit Secretariat at 623-5239 or 625-8425 Ext. 13000 to 13010. To access information on registering for TTBizLink, persons can contact the TTBizLink Help Desk by calling the toll free number 800-4739 on Mondays to Fridays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Alternatively, you can send an e-mail to support.ttbizlink@gov.tt.

Australian Shipbuilders submit Ferry proposals to Government

Two of Australia’s largest shipbuilders have submitted proposals to the Government.

Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young made the announcement last Thursday.

Following his trip to Australia last month, Rowley said the Government intended to purchase two ferries and a navy patrol vessel after talks with International Catamarans (INCAT) and Austal.

A team from Austal came to T&T recently and inspected the four water taxis which were built by them. They also examined six fast patrol vessels operated by the Coast Guard.

Young said, “During the time that they were here we received from Australia a comprehensive proposal from Austal for the provision of the fast ferries which the Prime Minister spoke about upon his return, as well as a cape grade vessel—a military vessel for patrolling the coast line of Trinidad and Tobago.”

He added that “Cabinet is setting up a committee to evaluate these two proposals and I have told both Austal and INCAT that we would like to invite them to Trinidad and Tobago within the next two weeks after the valuation committee have gone over their proposals to meet with our valuation committee and to go through the process because we want to proceed with those vessels as quickly as possible.”

Young said the 58-metre cape vessel is used by the Australia’s navy on its north and east coasts.

“It’s a vessel that can be built to specification with guns and holding bays if they pick up illegal immigrants. They are not the long range OPVs.”