Despite a decline in exports last year, President of the Shipping Association of Guyana (SAG) Desmond Sears says that the organisation is confident that the local shipping sector will rebound
“The Shipping Association is of the opinion that the local shipping sector will be making slow but sure progress over the years,” Sears told the SAG’s 7th Annual Dinner last Friday at the Marriott Hotel, where he said that there was a 17% decrease in exports and a 14% increase in imports in 2016.
Sears also used the occasion to call for revenue from the nascent oil and gas industry to be used for the development of infrastructure to improve the shipping industry.
He said there is a dire need for the rehabilitation of riverain harbours and ports, which are needed to provide proper and cost effective transportation for produce from riverain areas to main ports.
This move, he noted, would ensure that small producers will be able to have sustainable growth and development, which in turn would empower small, medium, and large-scale farming communities.
Sears further said that there is a need for “short sea shipping,” which would reduce shipping costs and transit times for local produce and locally manufactured products being delivered to islands in the Caribbean.
“Currently freight costs are high and there is a dire need for transshipment in order to get local produce to Caribbean Islands in a timely manner. There is also a need for improvement and development of the main ports of Guyana,” Sears said, while adding that users of the Demerara Harbour have been continuously calling for more dredging, which the SAG sees as necessary for shipping costs to be reduced as well as preparing for planned investment in the modernisation of the industry.
Sears did note that the SAG has been engaging the government through the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) and the Minis-try of Public Infrastructure and this has borne fruit.
He said the engagement has seen improved dredging, resulting in deeper channels being dug, thereby enabling vessels now being able to transit them during the later stages of the tides.
Sears added that progress can be made with more public and private collaboration on port development and infrastructural support. “Our hope is that a wider cross section of companies will join with SAG. We have plans to diversify the membership and have been approached by foreign companies to join, while locals have been tentative. So, let’s not ask what SAG can do for you but what we can achieve together,” Sears said.