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China Harbour signs MOU with Malta – UK stopped Cayman

ban_aboutBy James Debono Malta Today

UK government won’t negotiate with Chinese company, Malta just beginning

The UK stopped the cruise terminal project with CCCC – the same company which signed a MOU over the Malta-Gozo bridge feasibility study

The British government has intervened to stop the Cayman Islands (a British overseas territory) from negotiating with China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), a subsidiary of the China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), over plans to redevelop the George Town cruise terminal.

CCCC is the same company which has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Maltese government over a feasibility study for the construction of a bridge between Malta and Gozo.

Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush, who later resigned over unrelated bribery charges, faced strong opposition from the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office over his decision to negotiate with CHEC outside international procurement standards. The parliamentary opposition was also vociferous against negotiations with the Chinese company, citing the fact that the World Bank had blacklisted it.

In November, in a TV address to the nation, Bush said he had been forced to break off negotiations, which were almost complete, as the UK government was against direct negotiations with the company.

Bush backed off from the direct negotiations after receiving a letter from Mark Simmonds, the UK Minister for the Overseas Territories.

“I cannot allow you to proceed with the procurement of a new cruise ship terminal unless the proper processes have been followed, including by complying with international best practice on procurement”.

Premier Bush had started direct negotiations with the Chinese company without issuing a call for tenders after a previous call failed to produce a successful bidder.

Bush was later arrested on charges of misusing a government credit card and importing explosive devices without a permit. In December 2012, Bush was ousted as premier after a vote of no confidence by the Legislative Assembly.

The negotiations between the government of the Cayman Islands, acting through its Port Authority, and CHEC resulted in the execution of a framework agreement in March 2012.

CHEC claimed that a considerable amount of commercial data relating to the project had been shared with the negotiating team from the Cayman Islands. The company is now insisting that this information remains its exclusive intellectual property.

The Maltese government is committed to issuing a public tender for the bridge project if it is deemed feasible. Additionally, the government has not excluded CCCC from any future tender related to the bridge.

But the MOU signed between the Maltese and Chinese governments states explicitly that designs included in the study will be “the intellectual property of CCCC” and may only be used by the Maltese government for the implementation of the project by mutual agreement between the two parties.

The Chinese company has claimed that they will spend €4 million on the feasibility study without expecting anything in return from the Maltese government.

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