Opposition leader Arnhim Eustace says he has a right to ask about national issues. (File photo)

ST. VINCENT:- Arnhim Eustace, the opposition leader in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), has a message for Edwin Snagg, chairman of the country’s Port Authority.

“I want to make it very clear that as Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament of St. Vincent and the Grenadines; as a representative for East Kingstown; as a citizen of St. Vincent and the Grenadines; I have the right – indeed the obligation – to ask questions on things that are in the public interest and the answers are not clear to me. And nobody – no one – will prevent me for exercising that right.”

Eustace on Monday responded to an article published by Searchlight newspaper, which quoted Snagg as saying Eustace should get his facts straight on the introduction of tug and towage services at the Port Authority.

Eustace last week raised questions about the circumstances surrounding the awarding of the contract for providing tug and towage services at the three docking areas in St. Vincent. (Go to the homepage to subscribe to I Witness-News)

The Dr. Ralph Gonsalves administration in May introduced subsidiary legislation mandating all ships of above 1,000 tonnes 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.

Private operator will provide the service and the Port Authority, which does not own a tug, will get 10 percent of those fees.

Eustace wrote to Gonsalves on June 9, asking if there was a tender process, if there were advertisements inviting proposal for the service, and why it was necessary to introduce the service.

But Snagg, responding to Eustace’s call for transparency on the matter, told Searchlight that the former prime minister should verify his information before making statements.

“You must get it right. You can’t operate on hearsay and commess (gossip),” Snagg told the publication.

Chairman of the SVG Port Authority, Edwin Snagg. (File photo)

But Eustace fired back on Monday, saying that he wants answers to the questions he asked.

“I was not giving you facts. I was asking a question to be answered and that I have the right to do. And no one will prevent me from doing that,” he added. (Follow I Witness-News on Facebook)

“We will continue to ask those questions and there comes a time when we will get the answers. So, I want to make it clear to Mr. Snagg and all those others who are making statements, that I have a right – indeed and obligation – to ask those questions,” Eustace further said.

Snagg, who is also Director of Grenadines Affairs, told Searchlight that the contract for the tug service was awarded to W.J. Abbott and Sons after a tendering process which began with newspaper advertisements in September and October 2008.

He said over the past years the Port Authority has been making an aggressive attempt to bring its services in line with international standards, adding that SVG was the only Caribbean nation without a tug service.

Further, he said, because of the age of the pier, it is dangerous to allow ships to hit against it, adding that this would be costly for both the shipping company and the Port Authority.

He described as “a dastardly lie” Eustace’s suggestion that the new fees would result in an increase in the cost of some commodities.

The towing fees were already included in the freight charge, although the Port was not providing the service, Snagg said.

He further said that the Port Authority did not buy a tug because it is expensive to purchase, operate and maintain.