Berbice Bridge Company silent on overdue maintenance works

The Berbice Bridge

The Berbice Bridge Company Inc. (BBCI) is yet to state how it will raise the funds to finance bridge maintenance works, which are more than a decade overdue.

Late last month, Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson explained that an inspection by a team from the Demerara Harbour Bridge Company (DHBC) found that there was no provision made for the maintenance of the bridge.

“They recognised that since the inception the corporation made no provision whatsoever for the maintenance of the pontoons and we provided them with, free of cost, the possibility of how to do the servicing of the pontoons,” Patterson said, while noting that the BBCI has 49 pontoons and it is recommended that each be serviced every three years.

Because the pontoons are exposed to salt water, there are incidents of barnacles attaching themselves and leaks that must be repaired.

Patterson said the servicing should have commenced in 2007 but had not.

“And from 2007 to now, there have not been any provisions. All they have at hand is one replacement pontoon. So, if you think about that, they can only replace one at a time and it takes six months to replace,” Patterson said, while explaining that they have inspected in detail all of the pontoons that were close to the shore.

The bridge company was contacted multiple times for a comment and it was related to this publication that the person who is authorised to speak is not available.

Patterson highlighted that the bridge is not “in any imminent danger of collapsing” but noted that there is a need for a maintenance programme to repair the pontoons. He said that currently the company has no available facility in Berbice to repair the pontoons and therefore it will need $150 million to construct a dry dock.

“Every time the government has to intervene in the company, they make it quite clear that it is a private company. You can remember when we were trying to lower the fares, they said you can’t interfere. The government has said that you have options of raising finance and if you raise the finance, you can do the maintenance programme,” Patterson noted.

Patterson also explained that the bridge company could use its replacement pontoon and tow the one to be repaired down to one of the wharves and then send it back when the repairs are completed.

He said the DHBC had recommended that the BBCI secure a piece of land to build a dry dock. “With the dry dock you can do the repairs right there and those things,” he said, while pointing out that the recommendations were made at the ending of last year.

He added that a report identifying the issues, constraints and recommendations were sent to the bridge company along with how much money they would need. Patterson added that they also made suggestions as to how they could finance the project, including borrowing money, since they have guaranteed revenue, and selling shares. “They can borrow money, they have guaranteed revenue. You cannot not do anything, it is irresponsible to do nothing and use the fares of the commuters to finance the project. I’ve done all that we could’ve thought about. We would’ve suggested to do various things and proposals to assist to defray the cost so that you could get some advance money,” Patterson said.

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