The company that rented the Ottley Hall Marina and Shipyard is behind on its rent and other contractual obligations to the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the owners of the facility.
During Tuesday’s question and answer session in Parliament, Opposition Leader Godwin Friday asked if the shipyard is not properly maintained and is not operated fully.
He asked Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves to say why most of the workers were released from the shipyard in early December 2018 and have not been recalled to work.
Friday also asked Gonsalves how much money the government earned in 2016, 2017 and 2018 in rent from the shipyard, and whether the government plans to repair and develop the facility “so that it might realise its full economic potential”.
Gonsalves told the national assembly that he had been advised that the main gate to the dry dock has been removed for much needed repair.
“In the absence of this gate, the dry dock is non-operational and most of the workers have, accordingly, been laid off for the repair period.”
Gonsalves said he has been further advised that the dry dock should begin operating again no later than Feb. 15, 2019.
The income from the shipyard rental collected by the Ottley Hall Marina and Shipyard Ltd. amounted to $86,940 in 2016, zero in 2017, and $140,000 in 2018.
“This is $205,600 short of what was due. So there are arrears of just over $200,000. So he has paid a certain number, which I just gave and he has that indebtedness,” Gonsalves said.
The prime minister said that his government from the beginning, sought to make the project work.
“And as you know, in order for it to work, one of the first things we had to do is to secure debt relief amounting to in excess of $165 million because the debt was killing the project and we had always to put it out into private hands because the state operated it.”
He said that Ottley Hall Marina and Shipyard Ltd., a state-owned company responsible for the marina, leased the marina to Seafarer Shipyard Group Ltd., a local firm.
He said the lessee is also required to repair and develop the facility.
Specifically, the lessee is required to do the following, among other things, scrap the 70-metre floating dock and replace it with a 500-tonne travel lift, renovate all buildings –including repairs, plumbing, electrical and painting, purchase tools and personal protective equipment, renovate the dry dock hall, de-clustering the facilities.”
The prime minister said that the repairs and maintenance work should be undertaken in the first year of the lease and the other works within the subsequent two years.
“I’ve been advised by the state-owned company, the Ottley Hall Marina Shipyard Ltd., through the chairman, that the lessee is behind in his contracted work programme and the company, the state-owned company and the government, we are monitoring very closely the situation. Certain recommendations are to come formally to me as the minister responsible and to be put to the cabinet and that is all I can say about the third part.”
Gonsalves added that there are several entities, at least one local and two or three from overseas, “from time to time I have made representation to operate the shipyard.
“And, naturally, there is a review and the government will make its conclusions known.”
Asked, in a supplementary question, if he knows if the company is being operated profitably, Gonsalves said that he does not know and can find out.
“I think one of the problems, and it is evident if you go there, that this company has not had, I have been advised from one of its proposed partners, a sufficiency of capital injected to carry out some of the developmental work. I think that is at the heart of that particular problem.
“So, as you can appreciate, the assessment which we are doing, as always, you give somebody from overseas, do you try with somebody locally and with the partners they are hoping to bring? It’s a judgment call and we are in the review process.”