The wait is over for the two Roll-On/ Roll-Off ferries from China that will operate between Parika and Supenaam.
The two vessels, acquired from China at a cost of US$14M, funded by a US$17 M grant from the Chinese Government, arrived yesterday at Vreed-en- Hoop Stelling. Later in the day the vessels were inspected by Minister of Public Works Robeson Benn who expressed his gratitude to China and its people.
The ferries, Sabanto and Kanawan, have Amerindian names. Kanawan means ‘big canoe’ and Sabanto means ‘beautiful one’.
Each vessel has three decks and can hold up to 800 persons, 44 cars, and 20 lorries and can travel at a test speed of 12.5 knots. They have standard Caterpillar engines and most of their parts are European made making it easier to access for spare parts.
Round one for the inauguration will begin with the training of staff, test runs of the ferries and the completion of modifications to the Parika and Supenaam Stellings. These will occur before the ferries are put into full operation predicted to be by the ending of the first week in February.
Chinese experts are set to stay 40-days pending the training, adjustments and modifications as well as to conduct river and sea trials.
Back in August bids were open to various contractors for the modifications for a Roll-On/ Roll-Off facility at Parika and Supenaam. The bids were broken into two lots. BK International was awarded the contract to modify the Parika Stelling for $240.1M and the Supenaam Stelling at a cost of some $138M.
The Parika Stelling has been under construction for over a month now, but modification on the Supenaam Stelling is still being theorized. This process includes the design and testing, with physical improvements in the near future.
Minister of Public Works Robeson Benn said that both stellings should be completed by the first week in February 2012 to meet their operational deadline.
He said that the training requirements are of utmost importance for the Roll-on/ Roll-Off design. The two new ferries are off loading and loading vessels different from the Makouria class ferries which are side loading vessels. If not handled correctly the vessels can pose danger to those operating it. The training will last for approximately three weeks, according to its training programme that will take place in Essequibo.
“The two vessels ‘Sabanto’ and ‘Kanawan’ are being welcomed into Guyana, after their construction in China and a 50-day passage from China to Guyana…The two vessels promised, now delivered, speak volumes about the partnership that the Guyana Government has with the People’s Republic of China, moreso that we are realising the type of cooperation between the two countries,” Benn said.
The remaining ferries will continue to operate in Essequibo. Some will be deployed to Bartica, Wakenaam and possibly to the Berbice River, according to Ministry of Public Works Permanent Secretary, Balraj Balram.
The fare that will be charged by the new ferries has not been discussed as yet due to the lack of information such as how often they will operate.
Contractor, BK International, had indicated that he would complete the works in four months. However, the company is far behind schedule.
The Supenaam facility was dormant for months before being commissioned early last year. It was handed over to government with modifications being done. After opening to river traffic, it encountered structural problems, which resulted in its closure days after.
An investigation by independent engineers failed to place singular blame on the designers, consultants, Government agencies or contractor. Government ended up shelling out almost $70M to ensure the facility was made operational.
According to the bid documents for the roll-on/roll-off ferries, a 60-feet by 60-feet pier will be joined on to the existing one. A 77-foot link span bridge will then be attached which will allow for the ferries to unload. The ferries are said to include flaps at its bow and stern to allow for easy offloading. These flaps will be resting on the link span bridge.
The link span bridge will be stabilized by a pontoon and there will be mooring piles and fender piles driven, as part of the project. Fender piles, usually one of a group, are set beside ferry slips and wharves to guide approaching vessels and driven so as to yield slightly when struck in order to lessen the shock of contact.
The same construction will be done at the Supenaam Stelling, except for the pier.
In December last year, government signed contracts with the Chinese Government paving the way for the two ferries. The US$14M boats were described as a New Year’s gift by the local Chinese Embassy.
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