Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar says Government will receive a refund of $1.5 billion after British shipbuilders BAE Systems Surface Ships' failure to deliver three offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) on time. Additionally, Persad-Bissessar said Government would also receive over $61 million in damages because BAE breached the contract. Speaking to reporters at the VIP Lounge at the Piarco Airport yesterday morning, Persad-Bissessar maintained T&T did not breach its contract. Government served notice to end the $1.5 billion contract on September 17, the Prime Minister said.
Persad-Bissessar said Government had no intention of "being secretive" since there was a non-disclosure clause in the contract. She said BAE breached the contract because of delays and failure to comply with specifications for which were contracted. Persad-Bissessar said: "Because of the delays, damages of over $61 million are already now due and payable by BAE to Trinidad and when the cancellation note takes effect next month, the Government will become entitled, amongst other things, to a full refund of monies paid to BAE for the undelivered vessels." She added that delay was the most substantial cause for termination of the contract.
She said given the country's economic circumstances, Government was not prepared to waive the breaches. She said the country could not afford the costs to maintain the vessels which were close to $500 million a year. "Do we need three OPVs? The country is not at war out in the seas. The country is at war on the ground, in our streets and in the towns and within Trinidad and Tobago," Persad-Bissessar said. She said the money could be better spent on health care, education and paying "more money" to the police and prisons and members of the Defence Force.
BAE announced the cancellation on its stock exchange last week which freed Government to speak about the issue, Persad-Bissessar said. "We are prepared to talk with them and we will do so without prejudice because I do not want to compromise our legal position," she said. She added the OPVs were slow and narco-traffickers would spot them from afar. See page A9