Judge in Superfast Galicia lawsuit reads riot act to attorneys

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Justice Joan Charles. –

THE trial judge hearing the civil claim filed against maritime attorney Nyree Alfonso and two others by the Port Authority (PATT) over the controversial procurement of the MV Superfast Galicia read the riot act to attorneys on Friday, saying she will not be entertaining any process that does not follow the rules of court.

On Friday, Justice Joan Charles admonished parties at the start of the day’s hearing of the lawsuit. She said she received extraordinary correspondence from one of the parties without going into details.

Charles said there have been objections by all the parties in the case, from time to time, but they (the parties) must abide by the court’s rulings. “I will not engage in any process that would provide fodder…”

Completing his testimony on Friday was former transport minister Stephen Cadiz.

Cadiz held the transport portfolio in the People’s Partnership coalition government from 2010-2015.

Also testifying from Gibralta was Richard de La Rosa, director of shipping agent, Astralship who testified for InterContinental Shipping Ltd (ICSL) and its managing director John Powell.

The authority has sued Alfonso, ICSL, and Powell, alleging that while Alfonso was working for the port, she appointed Intercontinental Shipping Ltd as her agent to tender for the contract.

Intercontinental, the agents for the Superfast Galicia, won the bid.

The claim alleges Alfonso benefited financially from the $148 million paid to Intercontinental for the Galicia. Alfonso has already testified at the trial.

The claim against her is that she reviewed the case for terminating the authority’s arrangements for the Government Shipping Service with the owners of the MV Warrior Spirit and identified the MV Superfast Galicia as the preferred replacement.

The lawsuit filed against the three seeks damages for an alleged breach of fiduciary duty by Alfonso while she was working for the Port Authority as an adviser, to help them source a vessel to replace the Warrior Spirit on the inter-island seabridge.

She has denied that ICSL or Powell ever acted as her agent in the authority’s tendering process to find a suitable cargo vessel for the inter-island route during the time the Warrior Spirit was to go into dry dock.

She also said she was only on a six-month contract to assist the port to help identify/locate a party/vessel for the route during the dry-docking period of the Warrior Spirit, but not “bring it here or operate it.”

The lawsuit against Alfonso, Powell, and ICSL was filed shortly after the Superfast Galicia contract was canceled in April 2017. The decision led to daily delays in the ferry service before the government eventually bought the Galleons Passage to service the seabridge.

Cadiz was questioned about the tender for the vessel to service the seabridge but said his job was not to get involved in the award. That, he said, was for the authority and the Central Tenders Board. He said he could not provide answers about the charter-party arrangements.

Cadiz agreed that in finding a suitable vessel for the seabridge, safety was the first priority. He said there were concerns about the Warrior Spirit which was considered to be “unsuitable for the run.”

In his testimony, de la Rosa said the Galicia was the front-runner in the procurement process because it was the most readily available vessel among four that were identified for the route. De la Rosa was also questioned about his business relationship with Powell and said he questioned him about his company’s capacity to partner, insisting that Alfonso was not involved. “She’s a lawyer. No offence to her, but she doesn’t have the capacity (to operate a vessel on the sea-bridge).”

De la Rosa will again testify on Friday.

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