Eighteen months after the government signaled its intention to seek a private investor for the port of Port of Spain, officially known as the Ports Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (PATT), the Minister of Public Works and of Transport, Rohan Sinanan, said the ministry had just completed the preliminary study stage of the project.
Sinanan told the Sunday Express that there is a general misconception that the government is undertaking a full privatization of PATT. “It is not. What is happening now is a process to engage a private investor for the PATT through a public-private partnership (PPP) agreement.
“The PPP initiative responds to a mandate to streamline PATT operations and introduce a private sector operator into the port handling operations now carried out by PATT. This approach aims to significantly improve the competitiveness and efficiency of Port operations,” he said.
Last August, the PATT invited investors to express their interest in involving the private sector in the operation of the port.
According to the Authority, the EOI is designed to encourage and create a competitive environment for the creation of new business opportunities and new sources of revenue for the Port Authority and the potential partner.
The EOI targeted investors with experience in port investments, development and operations, shipping, logistics and cruise operations.
Potential investors were invited to come up with business ideas that will support participation in a public-private owner model project with the Port Authority in the areas of Cargo Operations at PATT, Cargo and Cruise Operations at Port of Scarborough, regional cargo operations at Caricom Quays and Port Authority cruise shipping operations.
In the notice, the Port Authority said it recognizes that an effective PPP arrangement has the potential not only to generate revenue, but also to positively improve the experience of port users, businesses and the community. national community.
Sinanan noted that the invitation period ended on November 23, 2021.
“All submissions have been reviewed and categorized according to investment areas. This preliminary phase helps determine the market appetite for a project of this magnitude,” he said.
He said that PATT has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for the procurement of consultancy services from the Port Authority for the PPP project for the period of November 1, 2021 to December 17, 2021.
“To date, the proposals have been reviewed and a preferred developer has been identified,” he said. He noted that the ministry has engaged the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) on the project.
“The IDB has been contracted to provide technical assistance to the government, which includes assessing project readiness and developing activities necessary for successful project implementation,” he said. declared.
Context of the project
On October 5, 2020, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said the government was seeking private sector support for the economy.
To this end, he had indicated that the Government was looking for a private operator for the Port.
“In particular, Madam President, the private sector has become increasingly and successfully involved in cargo handling operations in port facilities around the world. Public port agencies have moved away from the service port model in which national port authorities provide all commercial services as well as regulatory functions; but are increasingly using the owner’s model. The government has decided to adopt this approach, with the Port Authority retaining its regulatory and asset management functions, but with responsibility for the management, operation and finance of commercial activities such as terminals and facilities. in the port area under the responsibility of a new investor.
“The Ministry of Public Works and Transport will therefore be mandated to take immediate action to streamline by the end of fiscal year 2021, the operations of the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago and to introduce a sector operator private in the port handling operations now carried out by the port of Port of Spain, leaving the ferry service to the Trinidad and Tobago Inter-Island Company Ltd and the land to the Port of Spain Infrastructure Company. We will also take steps to ensure that the operations of the Point Lisas Industrial Port Development Corporation are consistent with the operations of Port of Port of Spain Port Handling Operations,” he said.
Cabinet then appointed a committee chaired by Minister of Public Administration Allyson West, which produced a report on the port’s potential.
Based on this report, which was submitted to Cabinet, the port was mandated to come out with an expression of interest.
In an interview with the Express last year, port chairman Lyle Alexander said port operations could be more efficient and lamented that the port had not been profitable.
Alexander said the port is one of the few in the region that has no private sector involvement.
The fact that it has remained a public entity for the past 100 years, he said, hasn’t worked out for him financially. In fact, being public and relying on allocations from the Public Sector Investment Program (PSIP) has been a downside.
While ports in the region have been able to develop better infrastructure and operational efficiency, the port has lagged in upgrading its equipment.
“We haven’t kept pace with the changes making sure we have adequate resources and a certain level,” Alexander acknowledged.
In 2019, 180,000 containers passed through the port of Port of Spain.
In 2020, the year of a global pandemic, only 112,000 made it through.
Alexander had said privatizing the port was key to T&T’s economic survival.
“The port is the gateway to doing business in T&T. It is essential to the contribution of the economic development of the country. We need new investments which we don’t have at the moment,” he said.
The port of Toco still under construction
Sinanan said Toco Port remains a priority project for the Ministry of Works and Transport and, by extension, the T&T government.
“In 2017, the National Infrastructure Development Company Limited engaged consultancy services to conduct a feasibility study for the Toco port facility, as well as the creation of conceptual designs, which have been completed.
In January 2020, the Environmental Impact Assessment was launched and work is still ongoing to obtain the required environmental clearance to proceed,” he said.
In November 2016, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced the construction of the ferry port which he said would bring great opportunity and generate economic growth for communities in the region.
To that end, Sinanan had turned the turf in March 2017 for the construction of a $196 million road upgrade from Valencia to Toco Road which will be used as a direct port route.
The idea of a port was conceived as early as 1990, some three decades ago, by a consortium of consultants called the “Sea Bridge Team” who conducted a feasibility study for a sea bridge service between Trinidad and Tobago .
The government’s decision to establish the Toco Ferry Port and start it up in 2020 ahead of the general election has been met with opposition from several environmental stakeholders.
On May 22, 2020, 19 civil society organizations (CSOs) challenged several conclusions of the environmental impact study on the port of Toco.
CSOs have argued that the Toco Port proposal is inconsistent with the Vision 2030 national development strategy which places the environment at the center of social and economic development.
Citing “misrepresentations and critical deficiencies” in the EIA’s assessment of the biodiversity and ecosystems of Trinidad’s northeast coast and the wider Caribbean and Atlantic marine environment, they urged the EMA to apply the precautionary principle in the National Environmental Policy (NEP) in their deliberations on granting an Environmental Clearance Certificate to the Port project.
The NEP requires the government to “adhere to the principle that if there are threats of serious and irreversible harm to humans or the environment, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing social safeguards and environmental”.
CSOs then challenged the selection of Toco for a port noting that the feasibility study on which it is based was carried out 32 years ago and that even then the pros and cons of a port in Toco had been weighed without a definitive recommendation.
The project falls under the National Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (Nidco).
At the time of the announcement, Chairman Herbert George said Nidco was eager to launch the project to boost industrial, commercial, eco-tourism and residential activity in the underdeveloped North East region which is home to more than 75,000 people. .
In 2020, George told Guardian Media Ltd that the port had been “suspended” due to the pandemic.
“What I can tell you briefly about Toco Port is that it was one of our projects that was stopped because of Covid-19,” George had said.
“So far we have done and submitted the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) to the EMA (Environmental Management Authority), it is up to them to process our CEC application (certificate of environmental compliance),” George said.
On April 14, 2020, the EMA sought public comment for the CEC on behalf of Nidco and the Department of Public Works. The request was also published in the Official Journal at the same time.
According to the published document, he said that the Ministry of Public Works is “desirous to set up a modern and multi-purpose port facility on 19.9 hectares of land”.
The application relates to dredging, land reclamation, earthworks and infrastructure works in Grand Anse Bay.
Once approval is granted, construction of the port will be done in phases and is expected to take 30 months. The project is expected to cost $900 million.