BCGI, Haresh Sugrim settle dispute over Berbice River dredging works

-after CCJ-recommended mediation

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) yesterday granted a consent order to allow the Bauxite Company of Guyana Incorporated (BCGI) and businessman Haresh Narine Sugrim to reach an agreement that would see the company paying him the sum of US$250,000 in a claim that was initially valued nearly US$1 million.

According to a press release issued yesterday by the CCJ, it heard the case on April 19th and during the hearing presiding judges urged the parties, before the close of the proceedings, to make every effort to come to an agreement.

It was a mere four weeks later that the Court was informed that both parties had reached an agreement where the BCGI would pay the sum of US$250,000 to Sugrim. The consent order was then granted yesterday.

Giving the background to the case, the release said that BCGI had entered into an agreement with Sugrim to perform dredging works at Aroaima and Kwakwani in the Berbice River to clear areas of the river of sediment. The said agreement provided for him to clear approximately 15,000 cubic yards of sediment from the river.

However, the release said, while the agreement prescribed a specific method known as “barge displacement calibration” to measure the amount of material that was dredged and removed from the river, it did not state whose responsibility it was to calibrate the barges.

Sugrim subsequently submitted invoices for a total of US$992,123 based on 105,545 cubic yards of sediment being dredged and removed from the river. Both the sum claimed in the invoices, and the amount of sediment that was dredged, were rejected by the BCGI.

The matter reached the Guyana High Court, which ruled in favour of Sugrim, who was granted the amount claimed in the invoices. The company then moved to the Court of Appeal, which while agreeing with the general approach employed by the High Court in assessing the amount due to Sugrim, reduced this amount by 20%. Both parties appealed to the CCJ as they were dissatisfied with the ruling of the Court of Appeal.

During the hearing of the matter before the CCJ, members of the Bench repeatedly expressed the view that the nature of this dispute readily lent itself to mediation.

“The Court observed during the hearing that it was virtually impossible to arrive at a sum with any degree of mathematical certainty. It advised the parties that, should a formal judgment be issued in the case, it would more than likely be met with great disfavour by one side. The Court gave an undertaking to reserve delivery of its judgment for six weeks, from the date of the hearing, to provide the parties with sufficient opportunity to explore mediation,” the release said.

Further, it was agreed that each party would pay its own costs in the proceedings before the CCJ, as well as in the proceedings in the courts below.

The CCJ yesterday expressed deep appreciation to the parties for what it deemed to be a mature and sensible approach to the resolution of the matter.

The BCGI was represented by Senior Counsel Edward A. Luckhoo and Andrew Pollard, while Sugrim was represented by attorney Chandrapratesh V. Satram.

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