Still no word on time frame for de-silting Demerara harbour

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Ongoing discussions in the sector over several years on the issue of improving the country’s maritime infrastructure are yet to yield any practical remedial action as the Guyana Shipping Association (GSA) continues to enjoin a restrained discourse over what a source told Stabroek Business is “a matter that goes to the heart of the country’s economy.”

At the GSA’s Annual Dinner and Awards Ceremony two Fridays ago, the association’s chairman Desmond Sears chronicled the ongoing developments during the presentation of his 2013 report. There was, however, no mention of a time frame, for the critical task of clearing of the channel.

“Our main objective was to continue our advocacy for the modernisation of the Demerara Harbour in the short term, in addition to the other harbours that cater to a heavy flow of marine traffic,” Sears said. He added that the industry had singled out the Demerara Harbour for “special attention” in view of its role as “the hub of commercial shipping in Guyana.” Though, according to the SAG Chairman, that “special attention” has not gone much beyond the setting up of a Port Authority Working Group “tasked with producing a proposal for the upgrade of the Georgetown Harbour.” That proposal has been completed and handed over to Transport Minister Robeson Benn for consideration.

At the shipping association’s dinner and awards ceremony: Shipping Association Chairman Desmond Sears (left) with 2014 individual and group awardees Ian D’Anjou, Kamal Singh, Chris Fernandes, Robin Muneshwer and Barbados Port Authority Head  David Jean-Marie
At the shipping association’s dinner and awards ceremony: Shipping Association Chairman Desmond Sears (left) with 2014 individual and group awardees Ian D’Anjou, Kamal Singh, Chris Fernandes, Robin Muneshwer and Barbados Port Authority Head David Jean-Marie

Sears told the gathering that capital dredging of the Demerara Navigational Harbour was “the most necessary element of the proposal” and that it had been “separated out” for “urgent action.” However, the shipping industry source with whom Stabroek Business spoke said that the “dredging the channel” has been a matter of urgency for several years and that there has been no real movement beyond the promises made by Benn at the same Shipping Association forum in April 2013. The source said “issues of cost” appeared to be “a major hurdle” but it was up to government to play the lead role in getting the country’s maritime infrastructure into better shape. “It is a critical matter as far as the economy is concerned. Difficulties associated with moving cargo in and out of Guyana have important implications for the economy,” the source added.

In his address, Sears said the clearing of the channel had been the subject of “an in-depth study” and it had been placed at the top of the association’s agenda.

Beyond its deliberations with government, Sears said, the association was seeking to garner the “support and assistance” of Britain and Mexico and had met with representatives of the diplomatic missions of the two countries in Georgetown.

Sears said the GSA is also part of a working group that includes government representatives that is seeking to develop new maritime initiatives including the development of the proposed Deep Water Harbour in the Berbice River and two container terminals at Linden and Lethem.

And according to Sears the SAG’s efforts to help develop human resource capacity in the maritime sector had seen the organisation hold discussions with the Critchlow Labour College. He said that in the immediate future emphasis will be placed in developing courses in maritime-related disciplines to “provide credits for the substantive Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI) Degree programme in Shipping & Logistics.

During the presentation of his 2013 report, Sears had also disclosed that the local shipping association had held discussions with DO World, the Dubai-based marine terminal operator, on plans to establish a terminal here.

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