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La Brea facility to ease forex burden
RADHICA DE SILVA
Dry-docking facilities to be built in La Brea will ease the country's foreign exchange burden, bring economic growth and create more than 5,000 jobs. That was the promise from Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley when Government signed a co-operative agreement for the project with China Harbour Engineering Company Limited yesterday.
"That is no small leap. Growing our GDP in one project is probably the best gift given to Trinidad and Tobago," Rowley said.
There was loud applause when he made that statement.
While he admitted he has not yet seen the engineering figures, the Prime Minister said he expects demand for supplies and labour to be great once the project begins. He said Housing Minister Edmund Dillon has already identified sites for housing projects to facilitate economic expansion stemming from the drydocking operations.
The facility will provide inspection, ship repairs and maintenance services for vessels traversing the west Atlantic.
"Every ship that comes into the dry dock will pay for all their services in US currency, so this project will be a huge foreign currency earner," Rowley said.
"As we are about to lose some jobs in Pointe-a-Pierre we are now talking about creating 5,000 jobs in La Brea in this kind of business. I have no doubt that a large number of people who would walk away with a separation cheque in Pointe-a-Pierre will end up in La Brea, Point Fortin, bringing their skills and contribution to the industry we are opening up in La Brea."
Rowley, noting that La Brea and Sangre Grande are the two areas in Trinidad furthest behind in terms of development, said the facility will provide opportunities for housing, restaurants and catering.
"There was a time that Brighton was an industrial centre and had a bright night-life. This project will restore that. Trinidad and Tobago this is our time and we are grasping it with both hands," he said.
China will control 30 per cent of equity in the project and T&T 70 per cent. In addition, the Chinese have agreed to arrange for their ships to use the La Brea facility once it is built.
Rowley said the project will bring economic rewards and he does not want it to be stymied.
Speaking directly to La Brea residents, he said T&T has lost valuable business because of the attitude of some who believe "if they can't get one egg, they will mash up the hen house." He urged them to avoid being labeled as industrial mischief makers, adding that the project is in keeping with the Government's 2030 vision policy for maritime diversification.
He said the world did not owe T&T anything, so "we have to earn it by providing quality service."
Chairman of the National Infrastructure Development Company Limited Herbert George said 13,000 vessels traverse the Panama Canal annually and T&T could benefit from this maritime traffic.
Senior Business manager of China Harbour Engineering Company Limited Rui Wang described T&T as the gateway to the Americas and said the market analysis study for the project will be done in eight months and construction completed in three years.
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