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Future of leadership of Port Authority to be decided after discussions by Cabinet – PM

Future of leadership of Port Authority to be  decided after discussions by Cabinet – PM
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves

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Equipment malfunctions that recently stalled operations at the Campden Park Container Port, and other problems that plague the facility will be discussed by the Cabinet of Ministers.

A decision will then be made which may see changes in the leadership of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Port Authority (SVGPA).

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves made this clear while speaking Tuesday morning on the AM Mayhem radio show of Hot 97.1.

“It is entirely unacceptable for important pieces of equipment not to be maintained.

“I have a way of following an old injunction from the folk, ‘take time to run fast’. Watch me running fast,” Gonsalves said in response to a question about heads rolling at the management level of the SVGPA.

Matters came to a head at the port on December 16 and 17, when container ships from Tropical Shipping and CMA CGM respectively were unable to complete offloading their cargo after their cranes developed problems.

The port’s crane has been down since February 2020 and the ships’ cranes would normally be used to offload cargo.

Also, on Saturday, December 19, the only working stacker at the port developed hydraulic issues, bringing to a halt delivery of containers to customers during the busy Christmas season. The port has two stackers and only one has been operational since October 2020.

Gonsalves told radio listeners on Tuesday that in correcting the issues, he has to do things in the proper manner.
“…And in my judgment, which is the most efficacious way, the best possible way and that does not mean that I don’t have certain tentative conclusions in my head,” the Prime Minister said.

The chief executive officer of the SVGPA is Bishen John, while the chair of the Board of Directors is Clayton Burgin.

Gonsalves said that correcting the issues is a matter for the board of directors, but the facts would be brought before the Cabinet and once proper consultation is made with the ministers, the message will be given to the SVGPA and things will move forward from there.

He says that it has to work this way as the port is a statutory body with a governance structure and a decision to deal with a CEO or someone on the board has to be done through the immediate governing authority.

The board is made up of public officials, a representative of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce and four persons nominated by the government.

“We will talk to the chairman and discuss issues that are germane to the decision concerning the CEO.

“Having addressed the issue and gotten all the facts, I will talk to the minister [in charge of ports Julian Francis] and I will go to the Cabinet and say this is the issue.

“I am talking generally what will happen,” Gonsalves said.

“I do not accept that it is reasonable for a crane to have been down for such a long period of time,” he said, while adding that when he was the minister in charge of the port, he knew the crane was down for quite a while, but was given many assurances it would be dealt with.

He said that one of the issues raised is that personnel and equipment to repair the crane had to come in from Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) but because of COVID-19 protocols there, travel out of that country is prohibited.

But Gonsalves said that is not a good enough reason because, he has during the pandemic, called the minister of national security in T&T to get exemptions for persons to travel. He said also that personnel and equipment could have been sourced from another country.

“I am not satisfied. But you see fellows were surviving without [the crane] because the vessels had cranes intact and it just so happen that two of … [the cranes] in quick succession broke down.

“Normally you have it happening….all the cranes on the ships were okay…you thought you had time, but in my view that’s not the only issue…that has earned the public’s ire, but I don’t think that’s the only area of weakness which needs a corrective,” Gonsalves stated.

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