Amaila access road far behind schedule

-unlikely to be completed before December

Construction of the Amaila Falls access road is so far behind schedule that the contractor Fip Motilall is not likely to substantially complete the road before December.

Motilall’s company, Synergy’s Holdings, according to Senior Government Engineer Walter Willis, has so far completed approximately less than 35 per cent of the entire project. The deadline for the completion of the US$15.4M project was originally September 9.

Willis explained that the company is likely to claim an extension for the bad weather and for other extenuating circumstances.  He said it is only if the company fails to complete the project by the extended deadline that the government can claim liquidated damages.

“If everything goes well, the middle of December is when the work could be substantially completed,” Willis said.  Willis said that he could not comment on the financial implications of the project being delayed. Project developer Sithe Global has repeatedly said it intends to commence construction of the hydropower plant before the end of the year.

President Bharrat Jagdeo, during a recent press briefing, disclosed that Motilall had agreed to implement a new structure to accelerate the work.  According to him, there had been a dispute between Motilall and the government teams overseeing the project over how much had been completed.  “There was a dispute about what level of progress there was; I chose to believe Walter Willis and the guys who represent us,” Jagdeo said. “Fip Motilall was saying that they are assessing progress differently but we have now agreed… he has agreed that he will put in a new structure recommended by the engineering firm SRK’N… which Walter Willis and the others agreed to that will accelerate the work,” the President said.  Motilall, he said, has to put this plan in place shortly if he is to have a chance to complete the road on time or with minimal delay.

Jagdeo said that the government is still working on securing financial closure for the project. “We’re working towards the financial closure,” he said, during the briefing at two Fridays ago at the International Conference Centre.

Questioned about the “new structure” that the President spoke about, Willis said that Synergy Holdings has been asked to devise a plan to secure more equipment and personnel to accelerate the job. He said that so far, the company has not produced this plan but it is expected shortly.  So far, the company has secured a pile-driving hammer and a dragline, but according to Willis the company will still need more personnel.

Synergy has so far started only one of the 15 timber bridges that it was supposed to contract. Willis had previously mentioned to this newspaper that the aspect of the project relating to the bridges was to be removed from Motilall’s contract, but the government engineer said yesterday that the contractor had promised that he could complete this part of the project.

Synergy won the contract for “the upgrading of approximately 85 km of existing roadway, the design and construction of approximately 110 km of virgin roadway, the design and construction of two new pontoon crossings at the Essequibo and Kuribrong rivers. The company was also to clear the pathway alongside the roadways to allow for the installation of approximately 65 km of transmission lines.

When the company won the contract for the project it faced intense scrutiny over its road-building capacity. However, Motilall said that he has built roads in the US States of Florida and Georgia.  Back in October, Motilall, during an interview with public relations executive Cathy Hughes, said that completing the road in eight months would have been a daunting task but insisted that it was possible. He said that from his assessment he would have given a project timeline of 16 to 20 months. “We have committed to do it in eight months because that is what the project calls for. It can be done but it needs to be done in a very coordinated way,” Motilall said. He stated that Synergy will be trying to cut time by having three teams working on different parts of the project together. However, back in April, the government urged Motilall to subcontract aspects of the project since he was far behind schedule.  It would appear, though, that this has made little difference in accelerating the project.

Meanwhile, Sithe Global’s Senior Vice President- Deve-lopment James McGowan told Stabroek News that the company is still negotiating the final price for constructing the Amaila Falls hydropower plant.

“We are still finalizing discussions with the EPC Contractor and the lenders to make sure we obtain the best price and terms, therefore the best tariff for GPL and the customers in Guyana,” McGowan said via email.  “As soon as we have a final number, we will be sharing it publicly,” he promised.

In June, McGowan told this newspaper that he final price for constructing the plant would be known by the end of July. At that time, McGowan said that a team from Sithe Global was in China negotiating the details of the contract with China Railway, the firm constructing the hydropower plant. Issues pertaining to the terms and conditions of the contract are among those being discussed, McGowan disclosed.

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