Paria attorney: Money cannot replace lost divers

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Attorney Gilbert Peterson, SC, delivers his closing statements on behalf of Paria Fuel Trading Co Ltd at the Commission of Enquiry into the Paria Diving Tragedy at the International Waterfront Complex, Port of Spain, on Thursday. – ROGER JACOB

PARIA Fuel Trading Co Ltd/Heritage Petroleum lead counsel Gilbert Peterson, SC, said the company has done all it could to help the families of four divers who died in an incident on its Pointe-a-Pierre premises last year.

He made this comment as he began closing arguments for the company before the Paria Commission of Enquiry (CoE) at Tower D of the Port of Spain International Waterfront Centre on Thursday.

Kazim Ali Jr, Fyzal Kurban, Yusuf Henry, Rishi Nagassar and Christopher Boodram were doing routine maintenance on a 30-inch pipeline at Berth 6, belonging to Paria Fuel Trading Co Ltd, Pointe-a-Pierre on February 25, 2022, when they were sucked into the pipeline. Only Boodram survived.

Peterson said, “There is no compensatory measure that could be done to these families. The loss of their loved ones is irreplaceable.”

In that regard, Paria and Heritage have tried to help the divers’ families by bringing closure to this tragedy and taking steps to prevent a repeat of this incident.

Peterson said the companies’ efforts were reflected by their full participation in the commission’s hearings and assistance they provided to the commission in other ways.

“We did not hold back with the greatest of respect.”

Peterson said Paria and Heritage “made available to the commission, all such persons in their respective employ, that they consider to be relevant and helpful to this commission.”

He acknowledged earlier criticisms by CoE chairman Jerome Lynch, KC, of Paria for dumping evidence on the commission without proper notice on one occasion.

Peterson said, “Our advice was, we need to dump it. We can’t hold it back once we discover it or once its requested.”

He apologised to the commission for this action.

He acknowledged comments in the public domain that Paria should have handled the incident differently.

Peterson said some comments questioned why Paria used contractor Land and Marine Construction Services Ltd (LMCS) to do the work on the pipeline up to February 25, 2022.

He argued that the rescue and recovery efforts which Paria made for the trapped divers were “entirely reasonable in light of a range of options that were available to it.”

Against this background, Peterson said, “We submit that there is no reasonable basis for Paria to be faulted or to bear any liability in relation to its selection of LMCS as the contractor to undertake the works; the role played by and during the execution of the works, having regard to other things such as the fact that Paria did not possess the capabilities to execute such works.”

Paria, he continued, took reasonable steps to satisfy itself that LMCS “was a competent and well-established specialist contractor operating in the oil and gas sector, with a requisite knowledge, skill and experience in successfully implementing works of a similar nature.

He rejected earlier arguments by LMCS attorney Kamini Persaud Maharaj that LMCS was not a specialist contractor.

“I don’t think that could be sustained.”

Peterson reiterated that the contract between Paria and LMCS arose out of a competitive tendering process in which LMCS was the only bidder who satisfied all of the tender requirements.

In addition to LMCS being well recommended from other entities in the energy sector, Peterson said checks on the database of former state oil company Petrotrin showed that LMCS performed 123 jobs successfully for Petrotrin between 2015 and 2018.

Petrotrin was closed in November 2018.