As the operations at the newly opened ferry stelling at Good Hope, Essequibo Coast get under way, truckers who utilize the services of the Transport and Harbours Depart-ment ((T&HD) have expressed frustration over the weight restriction of 16 tonnes instituted at the port.
Recently the Government Information Agency (GINA) stated that acting general manager of the T&HD Kevin Trim had said after a test was undertaken one week ago on the stelling, that it was functional and could be put into operation. However, he had qualified this by saying that this would be done slowly as a precautionary measure.
When questioned at a Cabinet press briefing on Thursday about the stelling not being able to accommodate anything over 16 tonnes, Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon responded that the imperatives of putting the stelling into service have been appreciated by both the T&HD and the Works Ministry.
As regards the losses the T&HD may incur with the new weight requirement, he said while the facility may not function in accordance with its 100% design specification, over time the authorities will be able “to firm up” what has been lost in terms of revenue.
Several drivers on the Essequibo Coast who spoke to this newspaper this week observed that the stelling had been expected to “ease” the problems which they had been experiencing at the Adventure location. Among these, they said, was the slothfulness of operations there and the condition of the vessel which served the former location. However, they described the weight requirement at the Good Hope location as “unfortunate.” The tonnage of vehicles is measured using heavy duty scales at the port.
Truck driver Shameer (only name given) of New Road, Essequibo Coast, told Stabroek News last week that he was working at a loss with the new system. He said “this thing don’t make sense to travel to Georgetown and have to cut back on weight because before we use to carry 20 to 22 tonnes and now is only 16.”
He said too that “it cannot compensate for time and money invested by truck owners per trip,” adding that he, like most truckers transported mainly commodities like timber and rice.
Other truckers noted too that the operations at the stelling will have a negative impact on the prices of items on the Essequibo Coast while others remarked that the prices for certain commodities have already increased.
It was noted by another truck operator that on their return trip to the Essequibo Coast, most operators would transport goods for resale at shops there and the trip had seen many having to cut back on time as well as introduce an increase in charges since they were operating at a loss.
Earlier this week several truck drivers had utilized the services of a pontoon operated by a rice farmer along the Essequibo Coast to travel to the Parika area, a move which they noted was economical.
The truck drivers said that initially they were excited about the new roll-on/roll-off stelling, but the operation left much to be desired. According to one truck driver the authorities should resort to using the Adventure stelling until, “better can be done at Good Hope.”
As a consequence of this new development, this newspaper understands, farmers along the Pomeroon River and at Charity have been feeling the brunt of the fallout. Stabroek News was told that the farmers have been operating at a loss since their produce, which includes ground provisions, cash crops and fruits and which was usually transported for sale to middlemen in regions Three and Four, had to be cut significantly. The Pomeroon area had already been reeling from the extensive flooding of farmlands as La Niña weather conditions affected low-lying areas there and other coastal communities recently.
Two weeks ago a test run was undertaken by the T&HD on the controversial stelling that lasted for 40 minutes. During the exercise 18 vehicles, mostly 10-15 tonne trucks, were offloaded and the results were deemed successful.
From the time of its construction, the $450 million facility was inoperable because the end beam of the loading ramp buckled. Thereafter the various actors in the drama engaged in exchanges over who should accept the blame for the fiasco.
Luncheon noted last August that taxpayers would be footing the bill for repairs to be effected to the stelling. He noted then that it was not “time to just point fingers and allocate blame,” but rather to correct the structure.
The Public Works Ministry had stated two weeks ago that it had strengthened crucial areas in order to make the stelling more compatible with the vessels which ply the Essequibo River route.