There has been no definitive word on the way forward on the Guyana/Suriname ferry service.
It was halted a few weeks ago with talks starting between the two neighbours to find solutions on what has developed a critical trading link.
On Thursday, Director-General of the Ministry of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon, disclosed that there has been some communications between the Government and the Government of Suriname in relation to the ferry service.
“The engagement is still going on. As you know, the MV Canawaima ran into some technical issues a few weeks ago and therefore could not travel on its own speed. I understand that there is some proposal to have it towed by a pontoon across the river.
“There is a counter proposal, of course, from Guyana to put one of our vessels on the route. So these are discussions which are now going on between the Suriname government and our Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“And once they are concluded we will have a clearer statement to make to you on the matter,” Harmon said.
However, initially, the Government of Guyana is not immediately looking to replace the Canawaima ferry with one of its own.
Rather, the country signaled last month that it wants to first have talks with Suriname to hold up its end of the bargain.
The ferry service, a joint arrangement, has been a boon for commerce and tourism between the two countries, moving containers and visitors alike.
However, it broke down recently, leaving scores stranded on both sides of the Corentyne River.
The Government of Guyana was forced to place the MB Sandaka at the Moleson Creek terminal to rescue the stranded passengers.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had said that the MV Canawaima has been suspended to facilitate repairs and servicing by the joint company- the Canawaima Management Company.
“Since the company was unable to secure the funds intended to meet the routine repair costs, the vessel had to be pulled by a tug-boat to facilitate passengers wishing to travel between Moleson Creek Terminal and the South Drain Terminal.”
The service between Guyana and Suriname was officially launched on November 6, 1998.
“It is a joint venture and the financial and other arrangements for defraying operational expenses are outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and the Government of the Republic of Suriname on the Formation and Operation of the Joint Ferry Service between the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and the Republic of Surname (1998),” the ministry had explained.
According to the agreement, the maintenance of the ferry is to be shared equally.
“This has not occurred. In a bid to reduce the hardships to passengers and businesses using the service and in order to give the neighbouring state time to meet its obligations, the Government of Guyana has been funding most, if not all of the maintenance works on the ferry over the years.”
The ministry said that the Guyana/Suriname Cooperation Council at its meeting in 2018 underscored the importance of the Canawaima Ferry Service to bilateral trade and cross border tourism between Guyana and Suriname and agreed that the efficient and optimal operation of the service was to the benefit of both countries.
“As indicated elsewhere the matter was raised by President (David) Granger over a year ago during his last meeting with his Surinamese counterpart. At that time, President (Desi) Bouterse undertook to look into the matter.”
The ministry had made it clear that speculation about the Government of Guyana taking on the obligation of entirely funding a joint enterprise of this type is erroneous.
“It is not in keeping with the bilateral agreement signed between the two countries that govern the obligations of both States regarding the operations of the ferry service. That agreement is still functional.
“There is no onus on Guyana to fund the replacement of the service either temporarily or permanently. The joint company has to ensure that the monies collected by or on behalf of the business are properly directed to defraying the expenses incurred.”
Guyana, the ministry said, will request an early meeting of the relevant mechanism in order that the issues affecting the operation of the ferry vessel can be fully ventilated and resolved to the full satisfaction of the parties.
“It is hoped that the fact that the service has been of mutual benefit to both countries will inform the treatment of the matter.”
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