Feb 22, 2012 News
– Diesel-run Caterpillar engines unsuitable, more expensive
Two new Chinese-built ferries that will ply the Parika/Supenaam route are likely to
cost Guyanese taxpayers millions of dollars more to operate and maintain than the older class Makouria vessels, officials have said.
It is now more than likely government will have to subsidize the operations.
The two vessels, Sabanto and Kanawan, arrived late December as a “gift” from the Chinese Government and are said to worth around US$14M ($2.8B).
However, assuming that the vessels operate on a 30-day basis, it could cost as much as $50M to run them.
While figures of how much the older vessels cost to run were unavailable, officials said that it will be millions more for the new ones.
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 come equipped with standard Caterpillar engines.
Personnel are currently being trained to work on the ferries while modifications
are being done to the Parika and Supenaam stellings in the Region Three area.
According to officials knowledgeable of the ferries’ test runs, while Caterpillar engines are dependable, they cost more using diesel as against the cheaper Bunker C fuel utilized by the older turbo-driven vessels like the Malali which are scheduled to be placed on other routes.
“In all likelihood, Government will have to subsidize the running of these two vessels as Transport and Harbours Department is unlikely to recover costs from its daily operations.”
The ferries will continue to provide a crucial link between Essequibo Coast, Region Two, and the city. Rice and cash crop farmers are heavily dependent on the vessels to transport their produce. They also provide a link to Wakenaam and Leguan, two islands in the Essequibo River.
Kaieteur News was told the Lister, Wartsila and even Blackstone engines would have been more suitable and cheaper to the Guyana condition.
It is about 19 nautical miles between Parika and Supenaam.
“Because of the high consumption rate of these Caterpillar engines, maintenance would have to be high in order to prevent problems and reduce breakdowns. This would obviously add to the costs with adequate spares for a year advisable.”
On average, it could cost $550,000 for each vessel to make two return trips to Parika. This adds up to around $16.5M monthly per vessel. However, this figure does not include the cost of running the generators on board the vessels which could tally up another $8M each, pushing the cost to operate both vessels to the $50M mark per month.
Another factor that could see the vessels underperforming is the fact that the heavy siltation of the Essequibo channels could reduce speed and would force management to lessen on the load, to avoid running aground.
The older ferries will continue to operate in Essequibo. Some will be deployed to Bartica, Wakenaam and possibly to the Berbice River.
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