The Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB) is once again being retracted to allow vessels to pass.
Kaieteur News understands that the bridge operators retracted the structure yesterday, allowing five vessels to traverse the area.
This comes three days after a tug and barge crashed into the bridge, causing extensive damage. Officials are still to assess the full cost of repairs.
In an interview yesterday on the National Communications Network (NCN), Minister within the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Jaipaul Sharma, said an investigation is underway to determine the cause, look at the state of the vessels involved, the vessel’s logbook, anchorage records, the crew, and possible criminal responsibility..
The minister explained that vessels approaching the DHB should be under control of a Transport and Harbours River Pilot, who would be familiar with the area. This was apparently not the case at the time of the collision.
“You wouldn’t expect that an international vessel approaching the bridge does not have a local person advising, or being on board,” Minister Sharma said.
He commended the efforts made by the DHB’s management, engineers and workers who effected bridge repairs within 36 hours of the “massive collision”, describing their work as “highly commendable.”
But the Minister also suggested that even when a new, fixed harbour bridge is constructed, “we should have other bridges… We should even have the two stellings up and running…in case of emergencies…for passengers and commuters.”
In the wake of the mishap, the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) is recommending several stringent regulations for vessels traversing the area.
Reports indicate that the crew operating the Panama-registered tug, Marina Oceanic and the barge, had shut the engine off, and anchored in an area where vessels are prohibited from doing so.
It is believed that the crew wanted to be among the first to pass when the bridge was opened for vessels to traverse. However, they apparently didn’t reckon with the strong tides.
“They may have wanted to be first when the bridge opens, (but) the current and the force of the water pushed them into the bridge and they lost control of the tug,” a source said.
Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson has confirmed that the owners of the vessels would have to bear the costs for the repair of the Harbour Bridge.
“But it is not only the bridge; a young woman’s car has to be repaired. Also there is loss of revenue, since two days of revenue would have been lost,” Patterson added.
MARAD officials explained that there are already regulations in place, which require the captains of vessels to notify authorities 72 hours before they come into port.
“But now, they will have to also send information about the registration of the vessel, whether it is insured, whether the captain has a certified Master’s Licence; and whether the crew is also licensed.”
This also goes for vessels that are going beyond the Harbour Bridge.
MARAD is also seeking to ensure that all barges are piloted by tugs that are adequate in size.
“Most barges can’t be operated by themselves. The size of the barge must correspond with the size of the tug. Some also need two tugs. ”
MARAD is proposing that the owners of vessels notify officials about the size of tugs, which they require.
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