Supenaam stelling fiasco…
– facility will not be fixed in a hurry
By Leonard Gildarie
A quick fix to put the troubled Supenaam Stelling into operations is not likely to happen and indications are more than one party may have to share the blame for the problems.
This is according to Government spokesman, Dr. Roger Luncheon, who also said Thursday, that an engineer’s probe has identified “considerable weaknesses” in the original designs of the $431M stelling.
Additionally, there were serious problems in the construction phase and government is now examining issues on who was responsible.
Government, in taking over the stelling, spent another $18M before structural faults developed on the ferry’s loading ramp, prompting President Bharrat Jagdeo to order an investigation.
Questioned about the engineer’s report, Dr. Luncheon, during Thursday’s post-Cabinet press briefings, said that government is unwilling to do repairs and end up back at square one.
“If I may say so, the most important intervention now is going back to the drawing board. I don’t believe rushing in there with carpenters and contractors and masons ideally is the first step.”
This would effectively mean that the use of the facility may not be for another few months.
According to the spokesman, during the investigations, the design consultants and engineers were “examined…comprehensively” from the inception of the project to the point where the problems were manifested.
“I think that the intervention has to be planned as the final intervention and on that basis, you can’t rush in there. The activity has to be properly planned and designed of what should be or what should have been and it has to be perfected…has to be tested…has to adopted so as avoid us revisiting a scene similar to this…one…two…three months in the future.”
Regarding whose fault it was, the Cabinet Secretary said that responsibility phase is being undertaken.
“…Concomitant attention must be paid…I don’t want to say miscreants…I don’t want to say unprofessional…but certainly the work that was done in the initial operation, in the initial phase and execution, somebody has to be liable for that. That is also being undertaken.”
Dr. Luncheon also said that based on the magnitude of the defense, it is unlikely that “a person…one person”, would be deemed responsible.
Last month, Managing Director of BK International Inc., Brian Tiwari, has apologised to Minister of Public Works and Transportation, Robeson Benn, for comments made in May following the problems at the new Supenaam stelling.
Tiwari, in a letter addressed to Benn, said that he regretted the “discomfort” that the remarks would have caused and that it was never any intention to cast any aspersions on the Minister’s character.
The apology was copied to President Bharrat Jagdeo, Prime Minister Sam Hinds, Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon, and Attorney General, Charles Ramson.
In May, days after the stelling ramp collapsed under the weight of trucks that were being loaded on a ferry, the contractor, during a media tour to the Essequibo facility, described the damage as “willful” acts by the Ministry’s officials and called on President Jagdeo to investigate the matter and hold the Ministry accountable.
BK International had constructed the stelling for the Ministry of Local Government to the tune of $431M. However, it was never commissioned as there were problems with the facilities and the loading structures that will allow trucks to board the ferries.
The Ministry of Public Works took over the facility in January and carried out some remedial works which included an additional pontoon and a drawbridge.
However, early in May, four days after being opened to traffic, the drawbridge buckled under the weight of vehicles boarding ferries.
Government was forced to reopen the aging Adventure Stelling in Essequibo, days after the collapse of the ramp.
BK International took the media to the facility and in distancing itself from the problems, said that the Ministry made modifications to the facilities without consulting the design consultants and contractors. BK also said it constructed the facility according to specifications.
President Jagdeo then ordered an investigation to determine what caused the problems with the intentions to have the defects fixed and the facilities operational within the shortest time.
Prime Minister Hinds, who is overseeing the investigation, worked with two private engineers. The parties questioned during the probe included the design consultant, the contractor, the Ministry of Local Government and the Ministry of Public Works.
Findings of the report are expected to be available within a few weeks.
Government had said that the Supenaam Stelling is key to developmental plans for Essequibo since it will cut ferry times by at least one hour and save millions on fuel.
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