The stelling, which was built at a cost of $574M, has been in operation for over a year with a stipulated weight limit for trucks and this newspaper was informed recently that a section of the facility, close to a floating pontoon where the ferry is usually moored, had been deteriorating almost daily whenever there is a change in the tide. Several attempts by this newspaper to reach Transport Minister Robeson Benn over the past week have been futile while officials at the Transport and Harbours Department (T&HD) noted that only the Transport Ministry can comment on the issue.
A truck operator of Queenstown on the Essequibo Coast told this newspaper last week that he observed several small cracks under the section of the stelling adjacent to the ramp. He said that from all appearances the pontoon’s position close to the infrastructure was the main problem. He said that bad planning on the part of the authorities was the main issue and according to him, in time the situation will lead to costly repairs to the stelling.
A speed boat operator in the area told Stabroek News last week that since March this year he observed the section of the stelling in question where the pontoon would “graze away and eat out the concrete base not far from where the ramp is”. He said that he related what he saw to the T&HD officials there but he noted that no one appeared to have listened to his concerns.
A resident of Good Hope explained that when the tide is low, the pontoon would rest under the stelling. He said that when the tide rises the pontoon, which is secured by ropes and heavy-duty cables, would “raise up under the stelling and as the water current flow there, the edge of the pontoon would scrape away at the concrete”. He said that the authorities needed to address the situation.
In April this year a section of the drawbridge at the stelling collapsed under the weight of a vehicle, triggering traffic congestion in the area for several hours. At the time the MB Sandaka was being loaded when the hinges connecting the drawbridge to the barge broke off. A heavy-duty vehicle was reportedly being loaded onto the barge when the incident occurred. The situation was corrected several days later but truck drivers had been complaining for months since the stelling was declared operational last May that the weight limit of 16 tonnes per truck had been taking a toll on their operations.
The stelling came under much criticism soon after its completion last year and several back and forth arguments between the Works Ministry, the Local Government Ministry and the contractor, BK International followed after design problems at the facility surfaced.
A team from the engineering firm SNC Lavalin of Montreal, Canada, which designed and built the $574 million structure, had undertaken a complete examination of the facility to determine why it became faulty and the company had presented a report on its findings and recommendations to the authorities in September last year, this newspaper was told.
A separate report which was compiled by engineers Marcel Gaskin and Bert Carter, who were retained to review the structure, including recommending remedial modifications in order to bring the stelling into early, regular use, is with the Office of the Prime Minister and staff there noted last week that the report was not ready to be made public, after more than a year following its completion.
President Bharrat Jagdeo had ordered a review of the stelling, following charges by BK International that modifications done by the Ministry of Works led to its current state. The Works Ministry later denied the company’s claims. BK emphasized during a tour of the facility after the infrastructure was handed over to the authorities that it had completed the project to the exact design and specifications required of it and it was certified and handed over to the government as a completed project.
This year the government announced that the facility was expected to be further modified at a cost of $50M to facilitate two roll-on, roll-off vessels being built by the Chinese. It is unclear when the vessels will arrive here.