Caribbean Airline airplanes parked in the Piarco International Airport.

Caribbean Airline’s estimated losses from March 23 to April 30 due to the COVID-19 pandemic was US14.2 million or TT$96.1 million, according to Minister in the Ministry of Finance Allyson West.

She gave the information in the Senate yesterday in response to United National Congress senator Wade Mark’s query.

West said the impact took effect from the start of March due to a drop in demand for air travel and was exacerbated by the closure of Trinidad and Tobago’s borders in March also because operating had become too risky.

Despite air travel being restricted, she said CAL has still been required to maintain all its operating systems.

“Notwithstanding the fact that air travel is severely restricted at present, the airline is also being required to keep it airline leases up to date and ensure that its aircraft are airworthy and all of its systems are functioning in readiness for the resumption of flights,” West said.

During his contribution at the COVID-19 update over the weekend, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley also noted that it was very costly to keep the airline going even while the fleet was grounded.

“Caribbean Airlines, looking at the outside world, would be operational at the first opportunity it gets because it’s costing us money now to keep Caribbean Airlines where it is, maintained and not working. The reason why it’s not going outside is because of the level of risk involved,” the PM said.

Rowley said one of the first actions to cushion the continuing losses may be chartered services to get people to destinations or back home.

Also in the Senate, Energy Minister Franklin Khan said it was very lucky that the recent sabotage and cutting of pipelines at Heritage Petroleum Company Ltd hadn’t occurred with a gas line. He was replying to an Opposition query on the June 19 report of sabotage and theft.

Khan said the situation involved more than sabotage since people were cutting three-inch pipes with a welding torch to steal “fence posts.”

“I wouldn’t say it was a common practice but in the south-west peninsula where there’s been hundreds of miles of pipeline, it has been a perennial problem over the years,” Khan added.

“But what happened with the sabotage/theft was a dangerous exercise—while it was lucky it was a dormant line which was cut into and it had no fuel, oil or gas passing through, what would have happened if it was a gas line —it would have been a major disaster…for two fence posts, it isn’t worth the risk.”

He said after the incident occurred, Heritage immediately reported it to Barrackpore police and will also increase mobile patrols with police assistance.

Khan added that the company is also seeking community help to monitor Heritage assets and is implementing CCTV systems with a hotline for such incidents to be reported.

“So hopefully, this will alleviate and bring such incidents in future to a zero position,” he said.

Khan said the community had over decades been the “watchman” of Petrotrin before.

On another Opposition question, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said for the first time there’s been redefined funding for the Director of Public Prosecutions’ division and among innovations, the new Port-of-Spain office for the DPP – on Park Street – will be open in weeks.

Al-Rawi and UNC’s Wade Mark traded veiled barbs, congratulating each other respectively for “new-found interest” in the DPP’s office and for “new-found interest” in accommodation.

West’s replies on the banking institutions with which Government has debt obligations also prompted Mark to try to get her to say if NCB Global Finance was among these.

But while she cited FCB, Republic, Scotiabank ANSA Merchant Bank and other institutions, West told Mark, “Sorry to disappoint you, Senator Mark, NCB Global is not what I said.”