Negligence blamed for latest stelling failure
…‘patriotic’ salvagers spent 22 hours recovering sunken pontoon
By Gary Eleazar
Negligence and carelessness on the part of those tasked with the responsibility of mooring the loading ramp for the Supenaam Roll Off/ Roll On stelling are to be blamed for the structure submerging on Saturday morning.
Kaieteur News visited this Parika facility yesterday and learnt that the ramp was attached to a temporary support beam, the end which was to be affixed to the Supenaam Stelling.
That pontoon was simply to hold the ramp in place until it was transported to the Supenaam Stelling where the end that was being supported by the pontoon would have been removed and physically attached.
This publication has learnt that as it was moored alongside the Parika facility the tide receded. This caused the temporary support pontoon to become lodged under a concrete column. When the tide again rose, the stuck pontoon became even more tightly lodged. It continued to come under escalating pressure before it finally submerged.
This publication understands also that the inlets (man-holes) on the pontoon, which are normally sealed air-tight, were also not secured properly, causing water to seep into the iron structure and lending to problems.
The pontoon has since been salvaged and is now moored safely at the Supenaam facility.
Leroy Benjamin, originally from Agricola but now based in Parika, was the man who sprung into action when the situation arose.
He sits at the helm of “Benjamin’s Marine and Salvage Services”. He received the call for assistance from the “Harbour Master.”
Benjamin sat with this publication yesterday and related his tale. According to the 61-year-old salvage operator, when he was called Saturday last he immediately ventured out to survey the works.
He decided that he would be a part of the solution rather than sit and complain and partake in the blame game.
Benjamin lamented the fact that the current ferries that ply the route which the Roll On/Roll Off ferries are supposed to service are in desperate need of retiring.
Benjamin said that commuters badly need to have the new ferries in operation and he wanted to play his part. He along with Kevin Glasgow, who operates a speedboat service in the locale, spearheaded the salvage operation which saw at least 20 persons being called into action for some 22 hours.
Benjamin, through his company, supplied two tugs, each with a seven man crew, two divers as well as four pump attendants. Glasgow supplied the needed speedboats for the operation as well as ancillary manpower to aid in the salvage mission. The team went into action about 17:00hrs on Saturday several hours after the pontoon had sunk and this mission was not over until midday the following day.
Benjamin was in loud praise of what he called his A-Frame.
Benjamin displayed his A Frame for this publication and credits it with being critical in hoisting the sunken pontoon to the surface level.
Benjamin’s A-Frame can be described as a massive makeshift crane erected and affixed atop a pontoon.
Underscoring the point that it was his sense of national pride that caused him to spring into action, Benjamin said that he and the Ministry of Public Works are yet to work out the details of how much the operation costs, in terms of how much he will receive for his services.
He explained that when the issue of cost came up when the salvage mission was proposed to him, this was the least of his concerns.
The main thing, he said was to get the ramp and pontoon out of the water and affixed to its Supenaam destination.
He did say that transporting the ramp and pontoons over to the Supenaam stelling cost $650,000 but said as it relates to the actual salvage operation he is yet to work out the details with the Works Ministry.
Government Engineer Walter Willis accompanied the pontoon which has since been transported to the Supenaam destination.
Benjamin credits his role in salvaging the pontoon and ramp to his years of training in the field.
The experienced marine salvager began working at the then Guyana Timbers in 1968 before he moved to Demerara Timbers. Benjamin praised the Guyana Defence Force, particularly the Coast Guard Division. He said that he has undergone a lot of training through this arm of the defence force and credits individuals such as a Colonel Harry Hinds, Burgess and the current Commodore Gary Best.
Best he recalls, at the time was “2 IC” (Second in Command) of the Defence Force. He has abundance of knowledge in the marine field.
Speaking to the constant critics of the project, Benjamin urged that all should be involved and play their part in getting the facilities into operation. “We badly need these ferries working,” says Benjamin.