Six-hour closure planned for harbour bridge repairs

- UK fuel carrier to pay for damage

The Demerara Harbour Bridge will be closed between Wednesday night and Thursday morning to repair the sections that were damaged when it was hit by an oil products tanker on Sunday.

General Manager of the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation (DHBC) Rawlston Adams told reporters yesterday that two cluster piles, four connecting posts, several pontoons and the transom were damaged as a result of the impact when the Lucy PG hit the bridge.

The vessel, currently docked at the Shell Wharf in the Demerara Harbour, is owned and managed by Pritchard Gordon Tankers of the United Kingdom, which Adams said has committed to paying for the damage.

The Lucy PG which damaged the Demerara Harbour Bridge on Sunday
The Lucy PG which damaged the Demerara Harbour Bridge on Sunday

The accident occurred during the 5 am retraction and the impact pushed the bridge out of line, and damaged several components, preventing its reopening to vehicular traffic for several hours until engineers managed to effect temporary repairs. Since then, the bridge has remained closed to marine traffic as the DHBC anticipated difficulty in closing it if it is reopened for vessels to pass.

The planned repairs are expected to begin around 10 pm on Wednesday and are expected to last until 4 am on Thursday. Adams said that the DHBC is already in possession of the main components needed to facilitate the repairs–the connecting posts etc–and that arrangements have been made to borrow two buoys from the Berbice Bridge Company. Once installed, the buoys will be used in the stead of the damaged cluster piles to help marine captains properly align their vessels as they transit the bridge.

During the repair works, the bridge will be closed to vehicular traffic. Adams explained that the bridge’s management decided to carry out repair works on Wednesday because it wanted to give the people adequate time to become aware of what will be happening.

Meanwhile, Adams said that while Pritchard Gordon Tankers has given a commitment to pay for the damage, a figure has not yet been arrived at. Adams added that teams from the bridge, the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) and the company have scheduled a joint inspection of the damage, which is expected to produce a figure.

Adams explained that only the Lucy PG was scheduled to transit the bridge during the retraction on Sunday morning. The vessel, which was being piloted by a Guyanese captain, identified as “Mr Gittens,” was given instructions to prepare to transit at about 5:05am as the retraction was taking place. The bridge was fully retracted by 5:15, he said, after which the vessel was given instructions to proceed.

As the vessel approached the bridge though, Adams said, bridge supervisor Ryan Arjoon noted that it was approaching in a diagonal position and instructed the pilot to re-align the vessel and approach properly. The pilot, however, is reported to have told Arjoon, “I know what I am doing.”

This exchange occurred when the vessel was about 800 metres from the bridge and Adams said that as the vessel continued its approach it remained in a diagonal position. When the ship was around 500 metres from the bridge, Arjoon noticed that it was still in a diagonal position and warned the captain once more to re-align before he attempted to transit. Once more, the captain said that he knew what he was doing.

Arjoon said that by the time the captain engaged the engines in an effort to re-orient the vessel, he had already hit first and second cluster piles and then proceeded to hit the northwestern section of the bridge.

Adams said that no fuel was spilled during the accident.

As a result of the bridge’s prolonged closure to vehicular traffic on Sunday, buses and hire cars operating on both sides of the river were forced to offload their passengers to the Vreed-en-Hoop and Georgetown speedboat stellings.

One driver, Dennis Nelson, said that after waiting some time in traffic waiting to cross the bridge, he took his passengers to the Georgetown stelling. The man said that abandoned load cost him $7,000. Other drivers sat at the park awaiting the completion of repairs before soliciting passengers.

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