China-built Essequibo ferries closer

-Parika, Supenaam stellings for upgrade

The government signed an agreement yesterday with China for delivery of two passenger ferries and as a result it plans to effect modifications to the Parika and Supenaam stellings next year.

The signing took place at the Public Works Ministry boardroom in the presence of Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, Transport Minister Robeson Benn, Foreign Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett and China’s Ambassador to Guyana Yu Wenzhe. The roll-on, roll-off ferries have been on the agenda for some time.

Transport Minister Robeson Benn, centre, and Haang Shaowan of the Chinese embassy sign the river transport agreement for the project yesterday while Prime Minister Samuel Hinds (second from left) and Foreign Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodriques-Birkett, left, and Chinese Ambassador Yu Wenzhe look on.

Prior to the signing, Benn stated that the two new vessels are going to be built in China over the next year by the Kung Lung Jang Yen Ship Building company. He said that the vessels will provide ferry services along the Essequibo River between Parika and Supenaam.

He said the vessels, which will each be 60m in length by 13.5m in width, will be constructed with roll-on, roll-off features. As a result, the Parika Stelling will be modified over the next few months to accommodate the features. The Supenaam Stelling, which remains inoperable, will also be modified to accommodate the vessels.

Minister Rodrigues-Birkett, whose ministry has been assisting in negotiating with the Chinese for the acquisition of the vessels, stated that the vessels are being constructed at a cost of US$13.5M. However, supervision of the construction process as well as transportation of both vessels to these shores will attract an additional cost.

She said that while the Chinese have timetabled the completion of the vessels for the end of 2011, she hoped that they will be completed within a shorter period. She said that the project is one of many which the government of Guyana has undertaken with the Chinese and she highlighted the Berbice River Bridge and the Skeldon Sugar Factory as a few which the Chinese have played an integral role in realising.

With a smile, Rodrigues-Birkett said that while another section of Guyana has been calling on the authorities to provide another vessel for that region, it should be noted that the two vessels will assist in the availability of the remaining ferry vessels to other parts of Guyana, including the North West District.

Ambassador Yu Wenzhe described the signing as another happy occasion for the governments of China and Guyana. He said that the two vessels will be built to accommodate passengers and vehicles and he expressed hope that they will bring improvement for residents living on both sides of the Essequibo River.

Prime Minister Hinds noted that the signing is a reflection of the “growing economic and social areas     of cooperation” between Guyana and China. He too expressed hope that the vessels will be brought to these shores before the end of 2011.

There had been calls by passengers who utilise the services of the  Transport   and Harbours Department (T&HD) ferry service for the authorities to replace its existing fleet of vessels, which have been seen by some as being outdated.

The MV Kimbia, which plies the Port Georgetown/Kumaka route, has experienced mechanical difficulties in recent times, with its age being cited as a key factor.

At the same time, the MV Malali, which services routes along the Essequibo River, has also experienced mechanical problems while operating in that area.

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