I visited the Essequibo Coast, twice, during the past month, and I am appalled at the service that the Transport and Harbours Department is providing for the people who travel to and from Georgetown.
The Parika/Adventure ferry schedule is now governed by the tide. The motorised pontoon is being towed by a tug, and the other vessel has one of the two engines running.
Those people, who do not want to use the speed boats plying between Parika and Supenaam, have to be at Adventure Stelling very early to catch the boat that sometimes leave at one o’clock in the morning. Those poor hard working people who should be resting must leave their homes in the afternoon if they live in the Pomeroon.
I have not seen the Budget allocation for the dredging of the river at the back of Hog Island, and between Wakenaam and Supenaam. It upsets me when I read the reasons why things are not done. If the cause/s of the problem is known, why not fix it? This is certainly not what the people deserve, particularly, when we are told that the route pays.
I have been traveling that route since I was a boy. In those days there was no mistaking who the Captain was. The sailors were so well attired that I always told my parents that I wanted to become a sailor when I grew older. The conduct of the crew was admirable. Oh! Heavens know how I long for those attitudes to return. For years I have been asking myself what has happened. Where did things go wrong?
After reading the account of the Ministry of Public Works retreat on page 17 of the Wednesday March 11 edition of the Stabroek News, I concluded that the situation would not change. That change can come if people, who know what maintenance is, people who can carry out the maintenance plans, and people with the necessary skills are involved. They must be motivated to stay. Good performance must be rewarded. There must also be skills training.
The reported unavailability of spares must be due to the Department not purchasing the required spare parts. It cannot be that the parts are not available from the suppliers. It must be that the Department stores do not have them in stock or they were never ordered. Pistons and rings, connecting rods and cylinder heads are not maintenance parts. They are repair parts. A diesel engine can run for over twelve thousand hours without repairs. All that is needed is the replacement of the lubricating oil, fuel, oil, and air filters at the prescribed intervals. Oil leaks, fuel leaks and cooling water leaks have to be corrected as soon as they are seen. The Engineer should ensure that the records are kept so that they can be a source for planning.
The mention of low/medium speed and high speed engines leaves me confused. The pressures and temperatures have to be monitored and controlled in all types of engines, including marine engines. Some engines are designed to provide maximum torque at low speeds while others achieve this at higher speeds. It is usually the fuel injection and governing systems that differ. Technical matters must be dealt with by technical people. Does the T&HD have a Chief Mechanical Engineer? If not, why not?
Finally, personnel may be leaving for “greener pastures”, because they are frustrated. For example, the operator/technician/engineer – whatever he or she is called – reports that there is an oil leak which is caused by a defective seal. The seal is not purchased. He/she reminds the supervisor of the leak over and over again. The engine starts to knock and the knock gets louder and louder. The seal is then purchased. However, it is too late.
What should have cost $5,000 to fix now costs $15,000,000, because the crankshaft and bearings and the connecting rods are damaged. Then it would take months to repair. The operator/mechanic/engineer feels foolish because he/she was responsible for the monitoring of the engine operation. His integrity is challenged, his self-esteem is tarnished. Can he be blamed for seeking “greener pastures”?
What about the visitor who may want to see Charity, and who may not want to risk his life in a speed boat, that runs out of fuel in the sometimes rough waters at the mouth of the Essequibo. This is not a joke, the female sitting next to me started to undress in preparation for the water. I was told that boats running out of fuel is a regular occurrence. I bet that the dispatcher at Parika and Supenaam would start to check every boat to ensure that they are not overloaded and that they have enough fuel, after lives are lost.
One does not have to have the eyes of an eagle to see how the services have deteriorated since Independence.
The Transport and Harbours Department has to do better. Please, no more excuses just get on with it.