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Alfonso: Deal above-board

SEAN DOUGLAS Monday, April 17 2017

FORMER attorney for the Port Authority Nyree Alfonso yesterday washed her hands of the Galicia scandal saying a top port official had publicly backed this vessel as being the best option to replace the Warrior Spirit on the sea bridge and added that any new vessel would have seen a need for the harbour to be dredged.

She said her fee for acquiring the Galicia, of “several hundred thousand dollars”, was calculated at the Law Association’s rate of $2,250 per hour. Alfonso made it clear she was not in charge of the tendering or evaluation process and had no knowledge of several issues being raised. She reiterated that payment received was for her expertise as a maritime lawyer and not as any ship broker.

She said the Law Association sets fees for all attorneys in one of four bands, from A to D, of which she is in the highest pay-grade as she is an instructing attorney/maritime law specialist, with 20 years experience.

She said the association’s banded rate at the time was $2,250, which at present is $2,500 per hour.

“That bill is 11 pages long and has four very distinct set of assignments each with billable hours. I’m deeply disturbed someone in port or government finds it necessary to share my bills,” the attorney said in reference to newspaper reports which outlined money paid to her. Alfonso said as she was invited to tender to source a vessel, she would not be in any position to say how the shortlist of nine bidders was made up and how the eventual winner — Intercontinental — was not on the short list.

“Apparently a lot of documents have been circulated in the press but they have not been by me. So I assume the person or persons distributing what I consider to be confidential documents would have shown them (the media) a document that had nine people on it, but I wouldn’t know anybody besides myself.” Asked her role in the affair, she said, “I was asked to find a vessel on an emergency basis when the previous vessel, Warrior Spirit, was leaving service for repairs. So on that instruction in December 2013, I went out and found five or six different vessels in a week or two.” Alfonso said she supplied the authority with details of these boats including specs, location and cost.

“We looked at availability that met their specs for passengers and for cargo. Subsequently they told me that Central Tenders Board had told them they must do some form of limited tender, to which I agreed, from a procurement standpoint notwithstanding that legislation was not in place. I was told that of the vessels that were located, Super Fast Galicia appeared to be the most suitable one, given its size, capacity, speed and age.

“I was told that bearing in mind that I had brought this boat forward and it looked good, then I would be allowed to participate (in the tender) because of that.” Alfonso refuted media reports of her being the Galicia’s broker. “I see my name being starred as a broker, but I had asked that the broker who had procured the majority of those (short-list) vessels, who is located in Gibraltar, be allowed to tender. That is what I requested.” She recalled supplying the Port Authority with the broker’s contact details, yet ultimately the tender documents ended up being addressed to her firm, ND Alfonso. She clarified that the Galicia never actually came to TT on an emergency basis but joined the line with eight other boats up for tender.

“What I requested specifically is that once they said the boat would be allowed to tender, I asked that they invite the broker to tender...not me.

But the tender invitation came to me in February 2014. It had my name on it, not the broker. That was not my doing as I’ve never been a member of the Port management.” She said it was done by the Port official carrying out the tender process.

Alfonso scoffed at claims that another Port official’s report had warned against the Galicia by saying its cost would triple within six months. “I find that nonsensical.

When a vessel comes in whatever the fuel or lubricant or crew – if she’s coming in on a charter you have one fixed rate per day. You can’t tender for US$14,750 per day, I think that’s what she chartered at and say next month or in six months time it is US$15,500 or US$16,000.” Alfonso refuted media claims that a Port official who is now saying he cannot talk, once rejected the Galicia as incompatible with port infrastructure.

She said that at a Port meeting in 2014, this same port official publicly said the Galicia was the best vessel and this statement should have been recorded in Port minutes.

Alfonso also refuted the idea of rejecting the Galicia due to a need to dredge the harbour, saying that this exercise was needed for any new vessel. (See Page 9A)

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