Vessels will now have to use tugs to navigate within three ports in St. Vincent.

ST. VINCENT: – Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace is asking questions about who will provide tug and towage services at three docking areas in St. Vincent after the government passed laws to that effect earlier this month.

The Dr. Ralph Gonsalves administration introduced subsidiary legislation mandating all ships navigating Port Kingstown, the Campden Park Container Port, and Great Head Bay to pay the Port Authority for tug and towage services.

The fees range from US$1,100 (EC$2,970) to US$4, 400 (EC$11,880) depending on the tonnage of the vessel, with a US$6,500 (EC$17,550) levy on vessels transporting vehicles to the country.

Cruise ships and Geest Line vessels — which transport bananas — have been exempted from the levy.

But Eustace wants to know how the government chose the company that will provide the tug and towage service, saying he did not know of the Port Authority owning a tug.

He said he understood that a tug belonging to private individuals will be used to provide the service.

Speaking on his party’s radio programme on Monday, Eustace said he planned to table a question on the issue during the next sitting of Parliament.

He wants the government to tell the nation if the Port Authority planned to buy a tug or how the fees would be shared if the service would be provided by a private company.

Eustace, a trained economist, projected that the fees paid by vessels could amount to EC$1 million (US$2.7 million) annually.

He asked on what basis the private company was chosen to provide the service.

“Did they put in a bid with others so that there would be some competition so you could keep rates down, or was it just given to them?” Eustace said. (Go to the homepage to subscribe to I Witness-News)

“… Because you would be into a large amount of money here and we should give others the opportunity to bid. People might find it useful to buy a tug just to carry out this service because boats don’t have a choice,” Eustace said.

He added shipping companies would pass on the cost of the tug and towage services to the costumers by adding it to the freight cost.

“And, since there is no choice, then you should go through the process of going out to tender and ensuring that other persons, other businesses, have the opportunity to provide that service, and they might have provided it cheaper,” he said.

He said the issue related to “good governance”.

“Good governance demands that you in fact [give others a chance to bid] … I don’t like it at all and I want the question answered when we meet at the next session of Parliament,” he added.

“You give the best possible evaluated tender and then nobody can accuse you of any hanky-panky. It is a serious matter indeed,” he said.