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Recent attack on NASSIT ferry rebuked

Recent attack on NASSIT ferry rebuked

Statements made by the Managing Director of the Maritime Administration, Mr Philip Lukullay in the full view of the media and general public on the NASSIT ferry issue have been invariably described by colleagues and a cross section of senior civil servants as regrettable and spells of betrayal and uncharacteristic damnation of the good intention that came with the idea of purchasing the two vessels that are soon to come to rescue of the sea transportation problem in the country.

In the weekly government press briefing last Thursday, the Maritime boss cowardly made it known to press men that he was not part of the delegation that went to Holland to purchase the NASSIT ferry and as such had “no hands in purchase of the rotten ferries”. Whilst this has been seen as an unpleasant move to self exonerate himself, it very clear also that Lukullay was helping to unnecessarily cloud the issue that is no doubt very clear to him as the head of the sea transport regulatory agency in the country members closely associated with the NASSIT ferry made clear to Sierra Express Media.

Lukullay it is said was in a position to make such a statement when in actual fact knew the ships are soon to hit the seas because of the many face-lifts that have been given to them with the Maritime as partner in development in the NASSIT ferry issue. Philip Lukullay is also said to be no stranger to the truth that The Trust went through all procurement procedures in the purchase of the two ferries and that the broker in the DAMEN Shipyards Gorinchem in the Netherlands deliberately misled NASSIT into believing that the ferries they had purchased were operational.

The company also agreed to carry out all repairs at their own expense in a one month period. It has long been also revealed that the brokers also said they were also misled by the sellers and that mistakes were made on the tow trip from Greece to Freetown, stressing that their responsibility was to make sure NASSIT receives what it deserves- a safe and operational ferry.

On March 24 last year, DAMEN wrote to the then NASSIT Director –General, Edmund Koroma saying, “at the time of its acquisition, the ferry’s technical state was deemed to be correct for her age and her condition reflected in the asking price.” However, the letter went on to state that “upon arrival, it became apparent that her condition had seriously deteriorated and that she was temporarily not operational while the passenger areas were not in the state that NASSIT expected.”

In that same letter, DAMEN offered to repair the vessel and bring her back into operation within a period of one month from the date of the letter, at DAMEN’s own cost. According to that letter which is in our possession, various specialists were to supervise the repairs comprising but not limited to, main engine repair, auxiliary engine repair, electrical system repair, bridge controls, structural welding replacement of doors in the superstructure and enhancement of the overall quality aspect of the passenger area.

The Ship Brokers had also expressed their feelings that the vessels should operate for the next two or three years without the planned engine-room overhaul for which NASSIT had already bought a caterpillar engine.

The letter was signed by K. Joustra, Regional Director for Africa and copied to the Minister of Employment and Social Security and the Chairman Board of Trustees.

Another interesting development was the reply from the then NASSIT Director-General, Edmund Koroma who pointed out that the state of the vessels which was contrary to what NASSIT expected and paid for, and also committed DAMEN to get the vessel operational at their own cost within the one month period they had stated.

In his correspondence to the Brokers, the DG expressed the Board and Management’s utter disappointment at the level of service offered by the company and stated that this was what they wanted to avoid that led them to chose DAMEN as brokers in the first place.

The DG also pointed out that although NASSIT had agreed in principle to the rehabilitation works by DAMEN within a month as suggested by the brokers, they will however use an independent specialist to certify that the vessel was in good operational condition. The email reply on the 26th March 2009 states that  “it has never been DAMEN’s intention to betray the trust of NASSIT but that the company will do whatever possible to bring the vessel back in the operational state she should have been in, when it was acquired.”

It has also been revealed that on July 25, 2009, €235,000 was paid into the account of Damen for the purchase of the vessel ‘Gripskyss’ and another €659,491 was transferred for the overhaul of another vessel- ‘The Costas’. We also saw that as far back as November and December 2008, NASSIT and the Ports Authority had agreed on how to bring the landing jetties at Tagrin and Government Wharf to standard for the ferries to land, and that this was contracted to the Ports Authority.

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