Sep 14, 2013 News
– section collapses under truck with rice for Venezuela
More than three years after being commissioned, the $600M-plus Supenaam Stelling in Essequibo, which provides a critical link to the capital, has started to fall apart.
A section of deck slab leading to the ramp that allows vehicles to load into the ferries has collapsed, forcing transportation officials to restrict heavy vehicles and leaving rice farmers angry over the delays.
This latest incident would bring to fore the questions of the quality of work on government projects. This particular project, because of its costs, problems and importance, had sparked an inquiry involving the contractor, BK International, the government nor the consultants taking blame.
Yesterday, Transport Minister Robeson Benn, confirmed that repairs have been done to the hole and an assessment team is carrying out other checks to ascertain whether additional emergency works will have to be done. The concrete stelling is built on piles.
The Minister disclosed that about two weeks ago, workers noticed erosion in a particular section of the concrete stelling. It quickly developed into a problem about six days ago and collapsed under the weight of a laden rice truck heading for the city. It left a gaping hole through which people could see the Essequibo River.
Engineers managed to repair the problem using steel sheets. As a result of the problem, Benn said, a decision was taken to restrict the weight of vehicles from 22 tonnes to 16 tonnes. While the restrictions have been lifted, they have caused delays. Both the Chinese ferries, MV Sabanto and MV Kanawan, which ply the Supenaam/Parika route, are now working two return trips per day to ease the backup.
Kaieteur News understands that several rice millers and other cash crop farmers are badly affected.
One of the measures in place during the repairs was to allow the trucks of a certain weight to pass over the stelling into the ferries and then have them repack the rest of their cargo in the vessels. This inconvenience had left farmers and drivers upset, the Minister admitted.
However, drivers at Supenaam refuted claims that they were allowed 16-tonnes limit…It was more like nine.
Some of them have been stranded at the stelling for as many as four days.
George Magwah, who worked for Imaam Bacchus and Sons Ltd, said that he was unable to make the trip for the past four days and remains unsure whether he would be traveling to Georgetown anytime soon.
Another truck driver, who works for Golden Fleece rice miller, Nazmul Hakh, said that his employers spent almost $700,000 to effect repairs to the damaged area but his truck was not allowed.
Some of the rice was destined for Venezuela as part of the oil-for-rice deal under PetroCaribe agreement.
Alliance For Change (AFC) Councillor, Bohawanie Persaud, visited the facility but was initially barred from touring the affected area.
He was highly critical of the current state of the facility.
“The scale is deteriorating; the railing also is falling to pieces. What really are we as (Essequibians) to use?”
The Councillor claimed that because of problems with the scale, workers at the stelling are forced to place iron sheets in order for trucks to be weighed, not desirable situation.
Region Two Chairman, Parmanand Persaud, said that he visited the stelling and has reported the matter to the authorities.
The Supenaam stelling, with costs mounting over $600M, has been a major embarrassment with several mishaps since it was commissioned May last year.
In May 2010, the stelling ramp buckled under the weight of a heavy vehicle, days after it was open to ferry traffic. Ferries were forced to revert to the Adventure Stelling which government had hoped to abandon. This particular stelling had been in use for more than 100 years.
Following the collapse of the ramp which effectively closed the stelling, the administration under pressure, ordered a report on the incident and tasked Prime Minister Samuel Hinds to oversee investigations. 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 Lavalin.
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 2010, an extra pontoon being installed by the Ministry sank while work was being done to attach it to the ramp.
While the project was budgeted for $431M, repairs and modifications were made pushing the figures closer to the $600M mark. The modifications were to accommodate the two new ferries.
That contract to modify the stellings at Supenaam and Parika were also awarded to BK International.
The stelling has been viewed as a good investment for Essequibo which overtime has been heavily dependent on river traffic, including the government-run ferries to come to the city.
Government has said that travel time from Essequibo to Parika would have been cut by a couple of hours.
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