Minister denies bias in ferry tender

ST. JOHN’S, Nfld. – Newfoundland Works and Transportation Minister Rick Woodford is denying allegations that the tendering process used to award the St. Barbe-Blanc Sablon ferry service was biased.

One company has suggested that the bid was awarded to a company with Liberal ties.

“The allegations that this process was in any way biased are totally unfounded. I am amazed that this would even be challenged,” said Woodford. “The department followed all aspects of the Public Tender Act and only one vessel, the Apollo, met the required specifications.”

In the Feb. 1 edition of The Telegram, opposition critic Paul Shelley said that government has watered down the Public Tender Act, leaving it open to abuse. The recent amendments to the Public Tender Act, which deal with exemptions, economic development and requests for proposals, do not apply to this tender.

Tourism and business traffic in the area is expected to increase, requiring the service of larger vessels.

Puddister Shipping Ltd., an unsuccessful bidder, submitted two bids – one for the Northern Princess and the other for the Cozumel II – but the vessels didn’t meet the service’s requirements.

Puddister later charged that government changed the tender to favor a bid submitted by another company with Liberal ties.

Only one of four bids met requirements to carry both passenger vehicles and tractor-trailers.

Puddister also claimed the Apollo does not meet requirements for length of the vessel, as stated in government documents.

Woodford wants the new vessels ready for increased traffic expected on the May runs. n

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