May 16, 2010 News
-$18M more spent on modification
By Leonard Gildarie
The Ministry of Public Works says that using the traditional timber planks would not have worked for the new stelling at Good Hope/ Supenaam. This stelling developed problems last week, four days after it was opened to traffic.
During a press conference at his Kingston office, yesterday, Minister Robeson Benn, flanked by his top deputies, stressed that his Ministry only took over the facility in January, and in a pressure situation, immediately started works to rectify a number of key problems inherited from the construction phase to ensure that facility was brought to use.
The Ministry expended an additional $18M to add a new pontoon and a drawbridge to allow vehicles to load and offload from the ferries. This was an expenditure in addition to the $431M already spent. Media reports had incorrectly tagged the facility’s cost to almost $600M.
The stelling’s construction should have started on March 14, 2007 and could have been completed on September 14, 2008. However, according to the Ministry, additional time saw 439 days extra being added.
On Friday, President Bharrat Jagdeo ordered a formal review on what went wrong with the stelling that caused the ramp’s end beam to buckle under pressure from the weight of trucks.
Prime Minister, Sam Hinds, will lead the investigation and two independent engineers will examine the actual projects and report their findings.
Yesterday, Benn, along with General Manager of the Demerara Harbour Bridge, Rawlston Adams; Head of Transport and Harbours, Khevin Trim; and Permanent Secretary Balraj Balram; also slammed the comments of the contractor, BK International, that the Ministry may have deliberately created conditions that allowed the stelling to fail.
These men described them as “preposterous”.
Benn said that when his Ministry took over the facilities in January, it was immediately recognised that two problems had to be fixed, Benn said.
This included fixing the issue of the bridge leading to the ferries and the question of flotation, since the one pontoon stabilising it could not have worked. And there was the question of fixing the large gap between the ferries’ loading area and the ramp.
According to Benn, in January, tests using a loaded truck found that the pontoon was at the unsafe level when significant weight was added.
Further, it was decided that it would have been highly impractical to attach drawbridges to all vessels docking there. The ideal situation was to build a drawbridge from the stelling’s bridge.
Inspections of the buckling of the ramp last Tuesday found that while the drawbridge remained intact, the ramp’s end beam was bent which raised questions of the quality of the steel used, among other issues, the Minister said.
It was also pointed out, yesterday, that although the facility was supposed to take up to 30 tons in weight from trucks, and on the average, it was inconceivable that the ramp could have buckled if it was built to specification.
Describing the sinking of the pontoon two weeks earlier as a mishap, the Minister said it was due to the fact that there was high tide and workers were in the midst to attaching when it swamped and sank.
While stressing that he is confident that the Prime Minister’s review will concur with the Ministry’s findings so far, the Minister was angry that BK’s Managing Director, Brian Tiwari, could have suggested that the Ministry may have had a hand in the problems recently.
Safety is a huge concern of the Ministry and already, private legal advice is being sought and the Attorney General’s office has been engaged to review the statements.
Regarding the damage to the rails of the stelling which was yesterday highlighted in a photograph of Kaieteur News, the Minister admitted that to lower the additional pontoon to stabilise the facility, workers were forced to remove the rails.
Examinations of the cracked walls at the bottom of the rails found that instead of it being solid cast, it was plastered using hollow blocks, the Minister said.
On questions why BK was issued a Certificate of Completion, Benn noted that his Ministry was not involved in this, since the stelling was being managed by the Project Execution Unit of the Minister of Local Government. Public Works only took over the facilities in January.
He insisted that there was a supervisory engineer, Vikab Engineerings, which was monitoring the works to ensure that the facility was built to specification.
The officials declined to comment on questions whether they were happy with the overall project and if the preliminary designs could have been done better.
Yesterday, Minister Benn also disclosed that any repair works to the stelling will have to wait until the two independent engineers would have completed their investigations.
In the meantime, Essequibo travelers will have to continue using the old Adventure stelling.
Last week, BK took the media on a tour to the stelling and claimed that the modifications including the extra pontoon and the drawbridge were not needed since tests had found that the one pontoon could have taken the weight.
The officials believed that the current modification works have resulted in the structural integrity of the stelling being compromised.
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