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[TTALPA] ‘Consultations target Port efficiency’

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[TTALPA] ‘Consultations target Port efficiency’

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[TTALPA] ‘Consultations target Port efficiency’
Kim Boodram
November 7, 2020

The committee appointed to advise Government on the privatisation of the Port of Port of Spain has begun consultations, meeting yesterday with a host of stakeholders, including the Seamen and Waterfront Workers Trade Union (SWWTU), as it addressed concerns that the move would result in significant lay-offs.

Committee chair, Public Administration Minister Allyson West, said at a brief news conference the issue of lay-offs was one that the committee was aware of and that trade unions have tabled their concerns.

Noting the SWWTU is represented on the committee and is an “important” member, West said the trade union represents the majority of the Port’s workers and “they are bringing their concerns to the table and we are looking at it”.

West, Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan and Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon facilitated a brief media question session at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) in Port of Spain, prior to the committee’s second consultation period. The consultations are intended to give the committee a clearer picture of the challenges of the operations, West stated.

Discussions began yesterday with the Ministry of Works and Transport, the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (PATT), the Trinidad and Tobago Pilots’ Association (TTALPA) and the Seamen and Waterfront Workers’ Trade Union (SWWTU).

The second session facilitated the Trinidad and Tobago Truckers’ Association, Customs and Excise Division and the Ministry of National Security. West said the committee hopes to wrap up by next Friday with discussions with the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA), the American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago, the Customs Brokers Association, the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) and the Ministry of Finance.

Asked to comment on concerns from varying quarters that privatisation of the Port would negatively impact any public stake in the operations, as well as cause job loss, West said: “We have mixed views on how Government should treat with different operations. Some think Government should not privatise anything and some think the Government should not be involved in anything business related.”

West disclosed that several sub-committees have been formed, in order to cover a range of issues and they are expected to report to the main body in the next two weeks. She said the process being engaged is intended to give the country the best options when it came to increasing efficiency at the Port, adding it is the interest of every citizen that the Port operate at optimum.

West drew reference to T&T’s high food import bill and said the added costs borne by the importers, as a result of inefficiencies at the Port, are passed on to consumers.

Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced during the October 5 budget presentation that the Government intends to introduce a private sector operator into the Port handling operations now carried out by the Port of Port of Spain by the end of fiscal 2021.

West also defended the inclusion of former PATT chairman, Derek Hudson, on the committee.

She was asked to respond to questions posed this week by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, as to what expertise Hudson was bringing to the table. West said Hudson brought his knowledge of the operations of the Port, which he chaired during its last “profitable” period between 2010 and 2011.

“We think he has a role to play and a contribution to make,” West said.

The minister said one of the issues facing the Port was a lack of capital “because we have not had an investment in machinery and infrastructure for some time”.

Saying the committee was taking a holistic approach, West said other challenges related to the operations of the Port included management and labour.

“However, as we move forward, we have to ensure those issues are addressed, so we come out with more efficient and hopefully, more profitable operations,” West stated.

West noted that modernisation of the Port would also include digitisation and the introduction of new machinery, including robotics, where needed.
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