Construction Services and Supplies Ltd. (CSS Ltd.) – Trinidad and Tobago

written by BVC March 29, 2024

Construction Services and Supplies Ltd. (CSS Ltd.)

Vision for Expansion and Sustainability


Shaping the future of construction, focusing on government projects, renewable energy, and strategic expansions.

Construction Services and Supplies Ltd. (CSS Ltd.), established 24 years ago in the year 2000, has cemented its position as a pivotal entity within the construction sector in Trinidad and Tobago, focusing primarily on projects commissioned by the government and its agencies. Unlike many competitors, CSS Ltd. eschews private residential and commercial projects, instead dedicating its expertise to developing public infrastructure—ranging from educational institutions and community centers to specialized health facilities and essential service buildings like fire stations.

Frankie Ali, the driving force behind CSS Ltd., offers an insightful glimpse into the company’s operational ethos and strategic choice to collaborate exclusively with government entities and their subsidiaries. Ali explains, “Our main core business is government and government agencies. We don’t get involved in private housing or private construction. All our construction is for the government or any agencies, commercial buildings, and state-owned.”

This specialization has enabled CSS Ltd. to accrue a wealth of experience in constructing facilities vital to the community’s infrastructure and catering to a broad spectrum of public needs. “Over the years, we have constructed many schools, community centers, fire stations, and hospitals—not big hospitals, but health centers that do many surgeries and surgical procedures,” Ali elaborates. His emphasis on the variety and scope of projects undertaken by CSS Ltd highlights the company’s adeptness at navigating the complexities and regulations of public sector construction.

A Glimpse into Signature Projects

In the evolving landscape of construction, where innovation meets tradition, CSS Ltd.’s portfolio stands out not just for its breadth but also for its depth, particularly in projects that veer away from their usual focus on public service buildings. Ali draws attention to several exemplary endeavors that depart from CSS Ltd.’s typical projects.

The first project Ali highlights is the restoration of the Parliament of Tobago, also known as the Red House. “It’s a historical building and one of the seven wonders in Trinidad and Tobago. It is historical because it has a complete slate roof. Slate is not commonly used in Trinidad. But what happened is that it was built in the 1940s by the British. They used slate brought in from Ireland for refurbishment works. And all the timber was brought in from Guyana and the United States, meaning we use southern yellow pine and greenheart, a hardwood,” he explains.

Ali’s second project is overhauling and refurbishing the Manta Lodge hotel and diving center in Tobago. “It was an abandoned hotel, abandoned for over 15 years, and we were able to refurbish it and bring it up to a two-star eco-tourism boutique hotel and diving center,” he shares. This endeavor reflects CSS Ltd.’s versatility and its role in promoting sustainable tourism through thoughtful and environmentally conscious development.


The Construction Sector as A Pillar of Economic Stability

The construction industry, often seen as the backbone of economic development, plays a critical role in shaping the growth trajectory of a nation. In Tobago, this sector is a significant employer and a vital cog in the economic machinery, paralleled only by the energy sector’s capacity to drive employment and development.

Ali sheds light on the significance of construction in Tobago. “Construction in Tobago, apart from the energy sector, oil, and gas, is the main employer in the country,” he asserts, emphasizing the industry’s vital role in sustaining the nation’s employment levels. This perspective highlights the government’s strategic use of construction activities to bolster employment, especially during periods of economic fluctuation.

He further elaborates on the cyclical nature of the construction industry, noting, “Construction is seasonal, meaning that there’s a lull period between election and election. There’s always a little lull, period.” Despite these ebbs and flows, Ali points out that the sector experiences “three, three and a half years of solid construction” within typical five-year political cycles, employing “over 150,000 people” at its peak.

Expanding on the interconnection between construction and tourism, Ali acknowledges the broader implications of construction projects on the tourism industry. “Tourists want to feel safe,” he states, recognizing the dual importance of accommodations and infrastructure—such as police stations and roadways—in creating a secure and comfortable environment for visitors. This intertwining of construction with tourism development suggests a symbiotic relationship where public safety and accommodations enhance a more appealing destination for travelers.

“Knowing that there’s a police station right around and all over, it impacts the tourists because they feel safe to explore the country,” Ali adds, illustrating the direct correlation between the construction of public safety facilities and the perception of security among tourists. This, coupled with the development of both high-end and more accessible accommodations, indicates a strategic expansion into rural areas to diversify the tourism experience in Trinidad and Tobago.

Addressing the Skilled Labor Shortage

The availability of skilled labor directly influences the construction industry’s vitality—a challenge that has become increasingly pronounced across regions, including the Caribbean. Ali unpacks the skilled labor shortage issue, acknowledging its impact on the construction sector within the Caribbean.

“I know in the Caribbean region there is a problem with skilled labor,” he explains, distinguishing between the abundance of unskilled labor and the scarcity of skilled tradespeople. He attributes this discrepancy to migration trends, where individuals pursue more lucrative opportunities outside the Caribbean, leaving a gap in the local skilled labor market.

In response to this challenge, CSS Ltd. has implemented an in-house training program that targets young individuals from trade and technical schools. “We embark on a training exercise, a training internship, a six-month program where at the end, we offer them a permanent job with the organization,” he reveals, showcasing the company’s dedication to nurturing homegrown talent. This initiative equips students with the necessary skills and guarantees employment, creating a sustainable pipeline of skilled labor for the company and the industry.

CSS Ltd.’s proactive engagement with youth and educational institutions is a critical strategy. Ali praises the government’s efforts to upgrade youth centers, which aim to equip less academically inclined students with vocational skills. “They train plumbers and electricians, including those interested in home economics, cooking classes, air-conditioned farming, and all kinds of things,” he describes, emphasizing the comprehensive nature of these programs.

Embracing Sustainability and Expansion in the Construction Industry

As global attention shifts towards sustainability and renewable energy, the construction sector finds itself at a pivotal juncture, balancing traditional practices with the urgent need for environmental stewardship. Ali addresses the gradual yet determined stride towards sustainability within the Trinidadian context and CSS Ltd.’s proactive stance on embracing renewable energy practices.

“It’s coming along very slowly, but we are on the path to sustainable and renewable energy,” Ali begins, acknowledging the sluggish but steady progression towards green energy solutions in Trinidad. His commentary sheds light on the broader challenges faced by the region, notably the disparity between the low cost of conventional electricity and the incentives designed to foster a shift towards renewable energy sources.

Ali proudly notes CSS Ltd.’s longstanding affiliation with the United States Green Council and the company’s focus on adopting sustainable practices. “We have attended many conventions and seminars. What we have done as an organization is take that responsibility and transfer it into our organization,” he states, detailing efforts to incorporate renewable and recycled products within the confines of Trinidad’s legal framework.


Enhancing Expertise and Expanding Horizons through Strategic Collaborations

Strategic partnerships extend a company’s capabilities and imbue projects with diverse expertise and insights. For Construction Services and Supplies Ltd (CSS Ltd.), selective collaborations have maintained its competitive edge and ensured quality and innovative projects.

Ali singles out Durable Slate as a pivotal collaborator, shedding light on the symbiotic relationship between the two entities. “We have maintained an excellent relationship with and partnered with Durable Slate for a couple of years,” he expresses. Ali elaborates on the nature of the collaboration with Durable Slate, noting its significance beyond a single project. “They partnered with us with the Red House roof, and we continue to consult with them on major projects concerning roofing material and, basically, that line of work,” he explains. This ongoing consultancy with Durable Slate shows how CSS Ltd. leverages expert advice and specialized skills to ensure its projects meet and exceed expectations.

As CSS Ltd. eyes expansion into Guyana, the partnership with Durable Slate gains even more relevance. Ali outlines the unique challenges and opportunities the Guyanese market presents, particularly in timber roofing, where Durable Slate’s expertise is invaluable. “Guyana has a lot of timber roofs. While they have specialists in Guyana, I think we will use a different technology in designing and constructing roofs with timber and associated materials,” he states.

Priorities and Expansion Plans

As the calendar turns towards the latter part of 2024, the construction industry, like many others, starts to align its strategies and resources with the upcoming financial year’s goals and challenges. For Construction Services and Supplies Ltd., this period is not just about closing out the year firmly but also setting a foundation for sustained growth and diversification into new realms of the construction sector.

Ali articulates a clear vision for CSS Ltd.’s immediate future, emphasizing expansion and diversification as central themes. “The vision for the company is to expand our services, not only in the civil works but into renewable energy, which we are doing right now,” he states, signifying a strategic shift towards embracing renewable energy projects. This pivot reflects a broader industry trend toward sustainability and acknowledges the growing importance of green energy solutions in construction.

Looking ahead, Ali reveals ongoing discussions with consultants about new projects, indicating an active pursuit of opportunities to collaborate with the government. “We are actively looking at those to see if we can partner with the government to execute these projects in Trinidad,” he shares.

As the conversation winds down, Ali reiterates CSS Ltd.’s undivided focus on maintaining the high standards of work that have become its hallmark. “We intend to maintain the quality of work we are accustomed to, that our clients are accustomed to, and to finish within time and budget,” he states. This steadfast focus on quality, efficiency, and strategic expansion will guide CSS Ltd. through the remainder of 2024 and into 2025 and as a guiding principle into the next decade.


Construction Services and Supplies Ltd. (CSS Ltd.)

What: A leading construction company specializing in government projects and expanding into renewable energy

Where: Trinidad and Tobago



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