Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) has been primarily an oil and gas-based economy with downstream industries such as Methanol, Urea, Ammonia and Ferrous Steel. It is the largest exporter of Methanol and Ammonia to the world and the second largest exporter of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to the United States of America (USA).
An international firm, based in Houston, Texas, USA which evaluates oil and gas properties and independently certifies petroleum reserves quantities recently submitted its commissioned report indicating that the level of proven reserves of natural gas in T&T has fallen to detrimental levels. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago has decided that for future economic sustainability and social stability, it is paramount that the gas-based economy be diversified to allow for alternative avenues of foreign investment, thereby facilitating increased trade and continued industrial growth.
One such key area that has been proposed is the further development and expansion of the Shipbuilding and Ship Repair Industry. Trinidad has been engaged in the commercial repair of small vessels such as Tugs, Barges and Offshore Supply Vessels for over 100 years, primarily in Chaguaramas, North-western Trinidad. One of the proposed sites that have been identified for further advancing this development is the new LABIDCO port extension and Union Industrial Estate both located in La Brea, South-western Trinidad an area which was formerly proposed for the establishment of an Aluminium Smelter Complex. This area is ideal because of its existing deepwater port infrastructure, sheltered Gulf of Paria waterfront, available land acreage and local competencies in welding and steel fabrication.
Though it has fallen on some challenging times over the past 25 years, Trinidad and Tobago’s maritime industry must be considered a vital strategic asset. The industry with the establishment of new shipyards would employ more than 4,000 highly skilled workers and would create some of the highest paying jobs in the manufacturing industry. These facts are often overlooked because ship repair and shipbuilding activities must, by their very nature, occur in some of the rural communities (e.g., Chaguaramas, La Brea and Point Fortin, with Port of Spain the only notable exception). While their present contribution to the economy of Trinidad and Tobago is small – either directly or indirectly – shipyards are a major influence on the overall economic situation, domestically and globally.
The situation now faced by the government should be looked upon as an opportunity – an opportunity “To develop a world-class shipbuilding and repair sector”, an opportunity to diversify the economy from the energy sector. The Shipbuilding and Repair Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago Limited strongly urges the government to consider all aspects of this important sector and trusts that it will adequately support and assist in the implementation of plans, as outlined.