China-built ferries dock

-to begin operating in February

The two long-awaited Chinese-built roll-on/roll-off ferries arrived at Port Georgetown yesterday and will remain at the city harbour until the first week in February, when they are to begin operating along the Parika/Good Hope route in the Essequibo River.

According to the Government Information Agency (GINA), the two vessels arrived in the country shortly after 1:30 am yesterday morning. The two vessels, the MV Sabanto and MV Kanawan, were moored in Trinidad for several weeks prior to their arrival here.

Chinese ferries here: The two vessels, the MV Kanawan and MV Sabanto, left and right respectively, moored along the Georgetown ferry stelling yesterday. (Alva Solomon photo)

Senior government engineer Walter Willis told this newspaper last evening that the two ferries will remain moored in Georgetown until the stellings at Parika, on the East Bank of Essequibo and Good Hope, on the Essequibo Coast, are ready to receive them.

He said that during this time, the Chinese personnel who brought the vessels to Guyana will conduct training of locals in manning the vessels and they will also assist in outfitting the vessels in preparation for their commissioning. Further, Willis said that the Chinese and their Guyanese counterparts will be conducting trial runs on the two vessels in the Demerara River and at sea.

A section of the VIP lounge (GINA photo)

When Stabroek News visited the Parika and Good Hope stellings yesterday, they were clearly not in a state of readiness to receive the two roll on/roll off ferries.

Construction firm BK International, which had been involved in the  controversy surrounding the Good Hope stelling, has recently commenced driving piles in the river bed to construct the berthing facilities for the vessels.

The Good Hope stelling already has some of the infrastructure in place but further modifications will see two pontoons being attached to the existing facility to enable the new steamers to berth safely.

The two ferries

Minister of Public Works, Robeson Benn along with a team from the Works Ministry as well as officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade toured the vessels yesterday, GINA stated. Benn expressed gratitude to the representatives of the People’s Republic of China who financed the two vessels, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation along with other government agencies whose input made the arrival of the vessels a reality.

“The two vessels ‘Sabanto’ and ‘Kanawan’ are being welcomed into Guyana, after their construction in China and a 50-day passage from China to Guyana…the two vessels promised, now delivered, speak volumes about the partnership that the Guyana Government has with the People’s Republic of China, moreso that we are realising the type of cooperation between the two countries,” Benn said.

The general passenger lounge on board the Sabanto (GINA pic)

The vessels represent an enormous boost in river transportation, particularly in the Essequibo district, according to GINA. “The last time such an intervention was made in terms of river transportation was in 1959 when the Makouria class vessels came into Guyana followed by the arrival of the Torani in 1962… 52 years later we are here receiving new vessels…This is attributed to the insight of the PPP government into these matters,” Benn was further quoted as saying.

In anticipation of the arrival of the vessels, a number of Chinese experts arrived in the country 40 days ago, GINA reported. “For the next two weeks they will work on certain adjustments, modifications and the conducting of the river and sea trials of the vessels.

Thereafter, there will be three weeks of necessary training, for the crews of the vessels, which is important as these vessels are end loading, thus the training and operational requirements are more sensitive compared to the Makouria-type vessels, therefore the need for practicing its operation and handling characteristics so to fully understand it,” Benn said.

The two vessels carry a VIP Lounge and the necessary amenities to bring comfort to passengers. Each vessel can seat 800 passengers and has the capacity to each carry 20 lorries or 44 cars.

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