A former manager of the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) has described the government’s expressions of ‘concern’ about the use of a barge to collect waste from cruise ships as a diabolical attempt to undermine the President of the Antigua and Barbuda Cruise Tourism Association (ABCTA), Nathan Dundas.
David Spencer, who worked with the National Solid Waste Management Authority from 2003 to 2015, said he was surprised that the Cabinet had concerns about the operation of the barge.
Two weeks ago, the Cabinet reported that they invited Colin Barnes, an employee of the Antigua and Barbuda Port Authority, to address concerns that he was using a barge owned and leased by NSWMA for personal profit.
Barnes, according to the Cabinet notes, was contracted by an unnamed ‘port handling firm’ to collect waste from the cruise ships.
According to the government’s Chief of Staff, Lionel “Max” Hurst, the Cabinet was concerned that Barnes was “profiteering” from the operation of the barge.
Spencer felt that the issue of the barge was simply being used as a ploy to assassinate Dundas’ character.
“I saw it as an attempt to besmirch the name and character of Dundas, finding some dirt on him, rather than a genuine investigation into the usage of the barge and to improve its efficiency.”
Spencer recalled that in 2104 NSWMA was concerned that Barnes was using the barge for personal profit without the Authority’s knowledge.
“At the end of 2014, the managers of the Solid Waste Authority had been discussing with Barnes about the servicing of the barge, which was brought to the attention of the board of directors. One of our concerns was that there were times that the barge was being used by Barnes for the purpose of making money and the Authority was unaware.”
Spencer said NSWMA addressed those concerns by creating an agreement with Barnes in partnership with the Port Authority and Bryson’s Shipping to better supervise the use of the barge.
“We established an arrangement for the barge to be leased, as we wanted to be aware of the barge every time it was used. That depended on the collaboration between [Bryson’s Shipping through] Nathan Dundas, so we can be aware of the ships that would be calling in and needed a barge, and the Port Authority in terms of the monitoring and on-site management of the barge,” he said.
He added that conversations occurred with the Antigua Port Authority to have their operations manager completely manage the barge.
“At one point we were trying to get the port to be the custodian of the key for the barge so whenever the Barnes needed to use the barge he would have had to go to the port’s operations manager,” Spencer said.
Dundas has made headlines in recent weeks over his stern opposition to the Global Ports Holding Agreement, drawing the indignation of many government officials, including the Managing Director of the Antigua Pier Group, Saiid Greene, who likened Dundas to a dog on a leash controlled by someone else, and a foreigner who has overstayed his welcome in Antigua.
Prior to Greene’s multiple outbursts on the state-owned or aligned electronic media, Tourism Minister Charles “Max” Fernandez and Prime Minister Gaston Browne had already torn into Dundas over his public statements criticizing the GPH deal, and announcing that several cruise ships had cancelled their planned visits to Antigua for the next season which runs from October/November to April/May.