…more modifications likely; weight and tide limitations still exist
The Supenaam stelling is expected to start operations shortly but a number of limitations, linked to the original designs, may only see vehicles of up to 16 tonnes being allowed to use it.
Additionally, a government statement said over the weekend, ferries will only be able to utilise the facility during a specific window as far as tidal conditions are concerned, the Ministry of Public Works said.
On Saturday, the Ministry conducted what it termed a “successful trial run” of the Supenaam stelling, with the facility expected to come into full operations shortly.
On Thursday, the M.V. Torani visited the stelling for a trial run to allow laden trucks to roll off, but there was an abnormally high tide which disrupted the process.
According to a Government release, “Rather than wait a couple of hours for the water to recede, a practice which is not uncommon at other stellings, it was decided to divert the ferry to the Adventure stelling.”
On Saturday, the practice run lasted 40 minutes and saw the offloading of 18 vehicles—mainly trucks— most of which were in the 10 tonne to 15-tonne range.
According to the release, there are some remaining minor issues that are being addressed at the facility.
“The Ministry is advising that the structure it took over was already built, and it was not involved in the design phase or the construction of the facility. However, all of the repair works were undertaken with the intention of strengthening crucial areas, making it compatible with the vessels that ply the area.”
It was explained that the original plan did not account for several key characteristics of the vessels that would have directly necessitated a change in the design of critical components of the stelling and did not take into account key factors of the environment, “further compounding the fact that it was poorly executed.”
“Public Works engineers are as a result faced with a series of significant technical limitations that are directly inherited from the original design, two of which are that the current system can only accommodate a maximum load of 16 tonnes. Vessels that ply the Essequibo route can only utilise the facility during a specific window as far as tidal conditions are concerned…”
On Thursday, the drawbridge from the ramp to the ferry was seen to be too high when lowered onto the ferry.
A senior Public Works official had stated that engineers may now look at several options, including lowering or raising the water level of pontoons below the wharf to adjust buoyancy.
Government had allocated over $50M earlier this year to fix the stelling which has been marred by delays and then structural problems, despite almost $450M spent.
Engineers had hoped to put the stelling in use by February 11, but discovered a suspect beam which they determined could develop into a serious fault.
Last May, the stelling ramp buckled under the weight of a heavy vehicle, days after it was opened to ferry traffic.
Ferries were forced to use the Adventure Stelling which government had hoped to abandon.
Following the collapse of the ramp which effectively closed the stelling, President Bharrat Jagdeo had ordered a report on the incident, tasking Prime Minister Samuel Hinds to oversee it.
Two private engineers were hired to investigate the incident.
There had been meetings with several of the parties involved in the construction of the stelling, including the contractors, BK International; the Ministry of Local Government, which was the executing agency; the Ministry of Public Works; the supervisors, Vikab Engineering and the designers, SNC Lavelin.
Key to those meetings was which parties would have been footing the bill to fix the defects and subsequent damage to the facility. However, the report has not been released nor has blame been apportioned, at least publicly.
In January 2010, the stelling was handed over to the Ministry of Public Works which claimed that it had raised concerns over some problems that were evident.
Just four days after it was opened to traffic, the stelling was forced to close operations after its ramp buckled under the weight of a truck.
The contractor, BK International, distancing itself from the incident, took media houses on an inspection shortly after and stated that modifications on the ramp by the Ministry of Public Works had caused the problems.
Late in April, an extra pontoon installed by the Ministry sank while work was being done to attach it to the ramp.
BK International, during the tour, had claimed that the modifications, including the extra pontoon and the drawbridge, were not needed, since tests had found that the one existing pontoon could have taken the weight.
The officials believed that the modifications compromised the structural integrity of the stelling.
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