Massive T&T port losses may see higher tariffs

(Trinidad Express) Massive losses at the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (PATT) may result in new taxes and tariffs for importers and exporters using the facility.

Transport Minister Devant Maharaj said over TT$100 million is being lost annually at PATT. He said it was heavy subsidisation, carried by taxpayers, that keeps the PATT up and running.

The minister made the statement during an impromptu press conference at the Ministry of Transport’s office in Port of Spain yesterday.

“It is costing taxpayers TT$100 million and that cannot be underscored enough. The port has been running at a loss. The port is not run as an economically viable port; it is heavily subsidised,” Maharaj said.

“One of the mandates the new board has been given is to develop strategies so we are at least breaking even in the shortest possible time. I have encouraged them to include the various stakeholders including the unions, the hauliers and the business community,” he said.

“We have to revisit the port economics. The port has been running at a loss and managed in a way not to benefit the country in any substantial manner. We cannot afford to continue doing business like that and of course this industrial action did not help the situation,” he said.

“We cannot continue to run like this. We have to try to return to the days when the port was economically viable and move away from the decade of decadence under the last administration,” Maharaj said.

Maharaj said there would be no easy fix at the port.

“People have become addicted to cash without productivity and performance. We would be exploring all options to make the port viable including looking at the rates to make sure it’s in line with international and regional standards. Looking at the operations and where there is a heavy layer of fat,” he said.

Michael Annisette, president of the Seamen and Waterfront Workers Trade Union (SWWTU), denied the high level of losses.

“I think the minister (Maharaj) was misinformed. After you deduct the periphery costs, it is really about TT$30 or TT$40 million,” he said.

A Government source, however, revealed the true level of losses within the port from 2007-2011.

The figures are broken down over six areas including debt financing, payments to a foreign port management firm, operating deficits, ferry operations and Government injections for development programmes.

For 2007, outgoing payments stood at TT$229 million; for 2008, that figure was just over TT$259 million; and for 2009, it stood at TT$273.4 million.

In 2010 and 2011, the payments were close to TT$300 million for each year.


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