Members of the Parika Speed Boat Owners Association are frustrated over the docking arrangements at the decaying Parika Stelling, which they say are inadequate for the daily traffic and leave them vulnerable to damage from waves and passing vessels.
“This place is way too congested, that’s the present situation at this wharf,” said Clarence Belle as he and several other members of the Association voiced their displeasure at the state of several issues at the Parika Stelling.
Among the issues raised by Belle and his associates was the congestion that prevails daily as passengers attempt to navigate their way to the various boats to get to their respective destinations. Many passengers have often found themselves on the wrong boat and in the wrong destination as a result, they said.
Belle explained that speed boat operators from Bartica, Supenaam, Leguan and Wakenaam all vie for space at the stelling, where a single set of stairs serves as the gangway onto the boats. He added that because boats from all four locations are at the same gangway, passengers sometimes mistakenly board the wrong boat and find themselves in the wrong locations.
Belle said that on several occasions, passengers heading to Bartica have found themselves in Supenaam, while those bound for Supenaam have found themselves in Leguan, and so on. He said that in these cases, these individuals would have to be brought back by other speed boat pilots.
Belle explained that this problem started in November of 2011, after the Transport and Harbours Department made the decision to relocate the speed boat operations to enable the docking facilities for the MV Sabanto and the MV Kanawan, the two ferries which were donated by the Chinese Government to the Government of Guyana early last year. The base of operations for the speed boats was relocated from the southern side of the wharf to the northern side, which is devoid of proper mooring facilities or a proper step to facilitate boarding.
Belle said that their current facilities are simply insufficient to cater for the over 300 boats that land daily. He further explained that that because of their location, the speed boats are usually vulnerable to heavy waves caused by rising tides and passing vessels. He added that the waves usually toss the boats about and cause them to collide with each other or slam into the wharf, causing considerable damage.
The MV Malali, he noted, also causes considerable damage to the speed boats. The present area where the boats operate is close to the area where the Malali is usually docked and strong waves would sometimes send the vessel crashing into the smaller boats, rendering them unusable.
Belle said that the waves also make it difficult for boarding, since a moving boat is quite difficult for passengers, and even the experienced boat captains to board. Elderly persons, he pointed out, usually have an especially difficult time boarding the boats.
As a result of the situation, Belle stated that formal representation was made to Transport Minister Robeson Benn, who he said stated that breakers would be installed to help deal with the waves. This development has not materialised.
Stabroek News made calls on December 31st as well as yesterday to Minister Benn, who was unavailable for comment. Calls were also made to the General Manager of the Transport and Harbours Department, who also was not available for comment.
“Things get so bad sometimes that they would move us back to the old location,” said Belle.
For this reason, he recommended that it is in the best interest of the speed boat operators that their landing be moved to its initial location, where the wharf, which broke strong waves as they come in, avails them some amount of protection. He also said that the facilities that are used daily should be renovated since their dilapidated state has caused more than a few accidents.