President orders formal review of troubled $600M Supenaam stelling
- Public Works seeks legal advice in wake of BK’s statements
By Leonard Gildarie
President Bharrat Jagdeo has ordered a formal review of the troubled Supenaam ferry stelling. Prime Minister Sam Hinds has been tasked with coming up with recommendations to make remedial modifications and ensuring that the facility is opened to traffic as early as possible.
And the Ministry of Public Works yesterday said that it will be carrying out a complete engineering “back analysis” to determine what exactly it took over “as a complete structure” back in January.
The Public Works Ministry also said that it is seeking legal advice on recent statements made by contractor, BK International.
On Tuesday, the ramp of the stelling buckled under the weight of vehicles being loaded onto the MV Torani, forcing the closure of the stelling, four days after it was opened to traffic. Passengers and drivers were redirected to the old Adventure stelling.
On Thursday, BK International took the media on a tour of the stelling, pointing out the damage done by the Ministry’s staffers during modification works.
BK also accused the Ministry of adding a ramp and pontoon to the stelling without any consultations with the contractor, the designing engineers and the supervising engineer.
Yesterday, a statement from the Office of the Prime Minister revealed that two engineers will be retained to assist him in the review of the almost $600M stelling which suffered structural problems with a ramp earlier this year, forcing the closing of the stelling.
“His Excellency, the President, desiring to bring an end to the disputes concerning the Good Hope/Supenaam Ferry Stelling and its earliest coming into scheduled usage, has requested the Prime Minister to undertake a formal review of this project, particularly in the specific areas of dispute,” the statement of Prime Minister Hinds said.
The Ministry of public works, breaking its silence yesterday on the ramp’s failure, said it was “frankly astonished” at the statement of BK which was carried in the print media yesterday.
The Ministry disclosed that it took over the facility which was constructed for the Ministry of Local Government.
It was “inadequate to handle the typical flotation as well as the arrangement to get on to the vessels for the heavy truck traffic from the Essequibo”, the Public Works statement revealed.
“The Ministry accepted to bring this expensive facility into use after waiting for a prolonged period for defects to be corrected. Notwithstanding the modifications, when the facility was put into use, serious structural failures occurred on the ‘as-built’ design.”
The Ministry stressed that the failure of the ramp would have occurred in spite of whether the drawbridge came from the ferry or the ramp.
On Thursday, during a tour and press conference at the Good Hope-Supenaam facility, BK said that there are clear indications that the structural integrity of the stelling may have been compromised because of damage done during modifications.
According to BK’s public relations consultant, Kit Nascimento, the company complied and built everything according to the designs and specifications, with the clear understanding that a ramp should be attached to ferries docking at the stelling.
However, the Ministry’s Transport and Harbours Department, acting on instructions, built a ramp/drawbridge from the stelling, which could not support the weight of heavy vehicles.
As a matter of fact, should the stelling continue with the use of the ramp, passengers could face the certain possibility of being killed, the team from BK International warned.
Present on the media tour were BK’s Managing Director, Brian Tiwari; its engineer, Julian Archer; and Kiran Shah, a consultant engineer of the Trinidad-based Vikab Engineering which oversaw the construction of the stelling.
Archer was the Project Engineer during the stelling’s construction prior to moving over to BK International late last year, it was disclosed.
According to Archer, modification works by the Ministry to add a new pontoon was uncalled for since the almost $600M facility which was handed over in January could have facilitated off-loading/on-loading easily if the ferries were using their own drawbridge.
The current ramp attached to the stelling is placing extra strain to the bridge area, according to the officials, and already yesterday attachments had broken loose from the driveway and there was an evident growing space in between.
Additionally, the BK group pointed out to several areas of damage to the facility by an excavator, with cracks in the sidewalls of the rails. Further, the officials said, the new pontoon, which was added on without consultations, could create further flotation problems of the bridge since it was not attached in a manner to allow flexibility.
According to Nascimento, the issue is a simple one – BK delivered a contract that it built according to designs and specifications.
“Government then sought to modify it and they have done so without consultations…”