Almost three months after Government was forced to suspend the ferry service between Guyana and Suriname, there seems little headway.
A meeting was supposed to be between representatives of the two countries.
The Guyana government has made it clear that since the ferry service was introduced almost two decades ago, it has been funding and maintaining the vessel, the MV Canawaima, despite an agreement on shared costs.
After months of dragging along, and saddled with mechanical problems, the decision was taken late May by the Government to suspend the service.
The fallouts were immediate.
It affected trade as vehicles would be crossing. Suriname and Guyana conduct a brisk trade with thousands of Berbice living in that neighbouring country for decades now.
Yesterday, the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) expressed worry over the non-functioning of the ferry, insisting that Government has been holding up its end of the bargain.
“On May 27, 2019, the MV Canawaima Ferry that operates along the Moleson Creek, Guyana – Nickerie, Suriname route was suspended until further notice to facilitate long overdue servicing and repairs by the joint company – the Canawaima Management Company – which is responsible for the ferry service.
“As a result, the MB Sandaka vessel was a temporary replacement to facilitate the return of passengers and vehicles stranded on both sides from May 31, 2019 to June 2, 2019. Since then, travellers are currently taking advantage of other options to travel back and forth between the two countries by air with Trans Guyana Airways and Suriname Airways and by water with the unconventional “backtrack”option,” GTA explained.
A joint agreement was launched between the governments of Guyana and Suriname in 1998. A
Memorandum of Understanding was outlined and it was stipulated that both countries are to equally facilitate the financial and operational arrangements dedicated to the maintenance of the ferry.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, shortly after the service was suspended, had said that it appeared timely action was not taken by the relevant authorities to initiate repairs to the MV Canawaima, when it sustained damage to one engine in September 2017.
“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.”
Foreign Affairs said that 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).”
According to the agreement, the maintenance of the ferry was to be shared equally.
The ministry had said that 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 matter of assistance from Suriname was even raised at the level of the Guyana/Suriname Cooperation Council at its meeting in 2018, which underscored the importance of the Canawaima Ferry Service to bilateral trade and cross border tourism between Guyana and Suriname. It was 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 Bouterse undertook to look into the matter.”
The ministry had said that it was all speculation that Guyana may place a ferry on the Corentyne River which separates the two countries.
“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.”
The Foreign Ministry said that Guyana will be requesting 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.
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