In a move to further enhance water transportation in the Essequibo River, the Public Works Ministry is currently in the process of purchasing a private vessel, the MV Hercules, from its local owner.
Back in August, Public Works Minister Juan Edghill had disclosed that the Transport and Harbours Department (T&HD) was testing out MV Hercules with the aim of buying the vessel.
After making several test trips to Leguan, Wakenaam, Supenaam, and Bartica, the Ministry was satisfied with the vessel’s running time, fuel consumption and passenger flow.
Consequently, Government decided to move ahead with the acquisition of the vessel, which will be operated under the T&HD to meet the growing demand of the travelling public.Edghill informed the Committee of Supply during Tuesday’s National Assembly sitting that the process to buy the vessel was in progress. He explained that this acquisition was a commitment made by President Dr Irfaan Ali to residents in Essequibo, who requested additional ferry service.
“The demand was great and we search, and we located that there was a fit-for-purpose vessel available locally and we engaged that person on what we called a trial basis. So, we operated the service – so many trips to Supenaam, so many trips to Bartica – checking on boat timings, speed, fuel consumption and at the same time, during that trial, improving the service. We are at the stage now, having done those trials and based upon the arrangements during those trials, we are looking now to properly acquire that vessel as a part of the Government of Guyana’s assets,” the Public Works Minister stated.
During that trial period, the Government footed the fuel bill and the cost of other “incidentals” of the vessel.
This matter was raised when Opposition Member of Parliament (MP), Ganesh Mahipaul questioned the Minister about the vessel, enquiring also about the cost of purchasing the vessel. In response, however, Edghill noted that this figure would be disclosed to the House at the “appropriate time” when the negotiations with the vessel owner are completed and finalised.
During the questioning, there was a back and forth between the Minister and the Opposition MP about the operations of the boat, which Edghill assured was currently running the Parika-to-Supenaam route.
Based upon further questioning by the Opposition MP regarding the operations of the vessel, Minister Edghill committed to produce to the House, the dates on which MV Hercules sailed during the trial period. This was after Mahipaul claimed that the vessel had been out of operation for several weeks.
In fact, the Public Works Minister disclosed that recent report from T&HD revealed that the MV Hercules departed the Parika Stelling for the Supenaam Stelling at 09:38h on December 19 with a total of 102 passengers, including six children and six pensioners.Additionally, there were 42 vehicles on the vessel. The total revenue earned from that trip was $379,608, that is, $35,400 in passengers’ revenue, $120,000 in vehicle revenue, and $224,203 in freight revenue.
MV SabantoMeanwhile, during Tuesday’s sitting, there was also questions posed to the Public Works Minister about the operations of MV Sabanto , which has been malfunctioning recently thus resulting in a longer journey time.Edghill explained to the House that MV Sabanto had encountered “a difficulty” with its only engine, and a trip that would usually take 90 minutes from Parika to Supenaam now takes longer.
“While the [MV Sabanto] is sailing, MACORP (Machine Corporation of Guyana Ltd) is on the boat working to fix the engine. We had a choice of taking the boat out of service and park it until it is fixed or we go with the boat that is not as fast as it used to be but continue to provide the service because the trucks with gas, the trucks with the provisions, the trucks with the coconut water, the trucks with all the products need to get out and the supplies to get into the Essequibo need to go [there]. So, we made a decision that we will continue to sail while work is being done,” he stated.
However, the Public Works Minister added that there were some spares needed that were not readily available in Guyana and had to be procured from overseas. He stated that the workers are currently onboard the vessel fixing the issues with the engine since the spare parts have arrived.
He went onto dismiss claims by Opposition MP Sherwayne Holder, that the vessel had been having issues for the past six months. According to Edghill, it has been just over six weeks that the MV Sabanto has been experienced issues with its engine.
Moreover, he added that another one of the vessels currently plying the Parika-to-Supenaam route needs to go into drydock for critical repairs but this could not be done now during the holidays.
“We have to time these things. When we take [the vessel] out of service to have it fixed, we have to do rearranging of the other vessels… to make sure that we keep the service going. The bottom line is that we are happy to tell the people of Guyana that, with all the challenges of these aging vessels and the difficulties of [getting] spare parts, we have kept the service… ensuring that they can get to their destinations and in many instances improving the efficiency of the service,” he stated.
Acquiring fit-for-purpose vesselsNevertheless, the Minister pointed out that this situation further justifies the need to acquire the MV Hercules.
“Because every time there is a difficulty [with one of the vessels plying that route], there is a build-up of traffic,” Edghill noted.
Moreover, the Public Works Minister disclosed that during the recent visit of a trade mission from the United States, he requested their help in finding fit-for-purpose vessels that might be available for auction in the US market.
According to the Minister, acquiring new vessels takes years. To this end, he noted that Government is looking to procure fit-for-purpose vessels that will improve fuel consumption, travel time and prioritise safety.
“The issue here of age is something that all of us in this House must recognise. At this time, fit-for-purpose is what is required while you go to the next level… The Government of Guyana has had to be engaging in two things since we came to office – fixing while we are modernising… We gotta keep the old ferries sailing while we buy new ferries, and that is what we have to do,” Edghill asserted.