Courtney Benn Contracting Services has heeded the advice of Agriculture Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, to hire additional workers, so as to ensure that the Hope/Dochfour Canal meets its looming December 31, 2013 deadline.
The project which commenced in February 2011 has three contractors -BK International, which is responsible for the Head Regulator, DIPCON Engineering, tasked with completing the Hope Bridge, and Courtney Benn Contracting Services which is working on the eight-gated sluice.
According to the Minister, while the hard part of the work is completed and Courtney Benn workers are capable of completing the rest of the work, it is essential for additional contractors to come on board, so as to ensure that the work does not continue into the next year.
Dr. Ramsammy recently recommended that Courtney Benn outsource the construction of some of the doors for the eight-gated sluice, to other contractors, and has assured that he has been getting the desired response from the company, as it has agreed to follow the suggestion.
He noted however, that that a formal plan has not yet been submitted.
The hiring of additional workers would be done at a cost to Courtney Benn Contracting Services.
The Minister explained that Courtney Benn Contracting Services will also have to get more equipment.
Hope/ Dochfour Canal is more than a year behind schedule, and earlier this month, Minister Ramsammy said that the Guyana Government is finally prepared to impose the penalty clause on contractors, should the Hope/Dochfour Canal not be completed by the agreed date.
Ramsammy noted that his Ministry has been quite patient with the three contracted companies, especially as it relates to accommodating extensions of proposed deadlines.
The construction of the $3B Hope/Dochfour Northern Relief Channel was undertaken by former Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, who estimated an 18-month completion, when construction commenced in February 2011.
Late last year Dr. Ramsammy, in his capacity as Agriculture Minister, announced an extended completion date – June 2013. This was subsequently extended to August 31, and later to December-January 2013.
One of the largest infrastructure initiatives in Guyana’s history, overall works on the Hope/Dochfour Canal is approximately 80 percent completed.
It has been purported that the relief channel would have the capacity to withstand floods greater than that which occurred in 2005, and with the current threats of a recurrence, the completion of this project is critical.
So far, the three-gated Head Regulator- the component assigned to BK International is nearing completion. The excavation of the 10.3km long earthen channel, which is being carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture, is about 90 percent complete. The process of shaping the dam is currently ongoing, with 30 percent already done.
Ultimately, the delay on the sluice will stall the entire project operation, since each structure is dependent on the other.
The channel is being constructed to ease the pressure of water on the East Demerara Water Conservancy at times when it reaches its maximum capacity, releasing it into the Atlantic Ocean, via the Sluice.
Meanwhile, the bridge, sited on the East Coast Public Road, is about 80 percent complete. Dr. Ramsammy said that the process of building an incline road to the bridge is also currently ongoing.
Ramsammy did not disclose what the penalty would be, should the contractors not meet the projected deadline.
The Minister said however, that the contractors have been working under strenuous circumstances, but a substantial amount of work has been completed so far.
“Even people close to me had said that this project would be impossible, but today, for us to be talking about a deadline, is a major accomplishment,” Dr. Ramsammy said, adding that he is hopeful that none of the contractors would let him down by failing to meet the December deadline.
Earlier, in July, a Parliamentary committee visited the multibillion dollar relief channel. Opposition Members of Parliament Joseph Harmon and Rupert Roopnaraine said that they were generally impressed with the works.
Roopnaraine had said that even though he was skeptical at the outset about the project and its significant cost, it is commendable that the local engineers and their subordinates were able to overcome the many technical challenges and complete a considerable portion of the overall project.
He said however that initially, he was for the upgrading the East Bank Demerara outlets, rather than the major investment in the Hope Canal.
“I think that whenever it’s completed, the Hope Canal will serve its purpose. I think the work that these engineers were able to complete, with all the technical challenges, is impressive,” A Partnership for National Unity (APNU)’s Roopnaraine added.
Joseph Harmon had told Kaieteur News that the works being carried out by the local engineers are testament to the fact that “We don’t need so much of the Chinese and other foreign contractors.”
The project is being spearheaded by Chief Executive Officer of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority, Lionel Wordsworth, and supervised by Raymond Latchman Singh and Dr. Ramsammy.
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