Jan 23, 2014 News
Agriculture Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy is yet to implement penalties on the contractors who were unable to complete the Hope/Dochfour Canal by its December 2013 deadline.
He said that while talks are continuing on the penalties that the contractors would face, prominence is being given to the completion of the $3B project.
In an interview with Kaieteur News, Dr. Ramsammy disclosed that some of the delays on the venture can be attributed to decisions made by the Ministry, and that as a result, it will take some time to agree on what the penalties would entail.
“Like for instance, with the Head Regulator; after the sluice had not been completed and we had the time, we made some changes to how the gate on that component will open. We implemented a simpler system, so the delays on that component cannot be blamed on the contractor,” the Minister said.
Asked again about what some of the penalties are likely to be, Dr. Ramsammy stressed that his Ministry’s main focus at this point is getting the job done and having the Hope Canal up and running as soon as possible.
“Many people question my decision. They believe that I should have terminated the contract, but had I done that, we would’ve still been in the contract stages and we would’ve had to be looking at a 2015 deadline,” Dr. Ramsammy said.
Nonetheless, he explained that six tranches were devised in order to have the Hope Canal become operational by February 14.
“We came up with six tranches of work to be done, and so far, the contractors have shown consistency in delivering on those.”
Construction of this Northern Relief Channel is being undertaken by DIPCON Engineering, BK International and Courtney Benn Contracting Services.
Dr. Ramsammy stressed that the latter entity is responsible for the project being behind schedule, since each project is dependent on the other. Courtney Benn Contracting Services has not yet been able to complete its component of the project- the eight-gated sluice.
Kaieteur News has made several attempts to speak with officials from the errant company to no avail.
Dr. Ramsammy said that in another effort to meet the new date of operation, his Ministry has even undertaken the task of manufacturing the eight steel doors for the outfall, adding that there were some difficulties in finding steel fabricators.
“…So now, all Courtney Benn has to do is complete the structure- the gate walls and so on.”
The Agriculture Minister explained however, that even though the government is giving more importance to completing the project as opposed to imposing the penalties, “it does not absolve him (Courtney Benn).”
The overall construction works on the Northern Relief Channel is more than two years behind its original deadline.
The construction of the 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 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.
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.
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 also just about complete.
The overhead bridge, DIPCON’s component of the project, stands parallel to the East Coast Demerara Public Road, and is fully complete, but not yet open to traffic.
“As soon as the President finds time to commission it, it will be,” Dr. Ramsammy said.
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