By Rehana Ahamad
AFTER a five-year hiatus, the initiative to source a brand new ferry to operate the Georgetown to Region One (North-West District) route, has finally come back on stream, with the inking of a multimillion dollar contract on Wednesday.
The contract, valued at US$ 12,733,403, was signed between the Transport and Harbours Department under the Ministry of Public Works – Guyana, and Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Limited (GRESL), based in India.
The project to design, construct and supply the Ocean-Going Passenger and Cargo Ferry Vessel is being funded by India’s Ministry of Defence. The sourcing of the vessel is part of a larger US$18M agreement which affords Guyana access to US$10M via a Line of Credit from the Indian Government, as well as a grant of US$8M.
Speaking at the signing ceremony hosted at the Ministry of Public Works in Kingstown Georgetown, senior subject Minister Juan Edghill indicated that the ferry is expected to be delivered to Port Georgetown within 18 months.
“That is the timeline we are working with. It (the new vessel) will provide larger capacity for cargo, shorter travel time, safer and more comfortable services to commuters traveling between Georgetown and the North-West District,” Edghill said.
The minister explained that after the signing, an advance payment of 20 per cent will be disbursed to the company, after which monies will be released as the project reaches its major milestones.
“The final 40 per cent of the contract will be disbursed in 2022, after the installation of the main engines and steering system, and upon receipt and acceptance of the vessel,” Edghill noted.
The Government of Guyana proposes to utilise the balance amount of US$ 18 million to execute upgrades of the marine stellings that will accommodate the new vessel. This proposal is to be deliberated on by the Government of India.
Delivering brief remarks, High Commissioner of India to Guyana, Dr K.J. Srinivasa, emphasised the capability of the contracted company, noting that the entity, which falls under the administrative control of the Ministry of Defence, has been around since 1961, primarily catering to the shipbuilding requirements of the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard.
“In addition to its ship and warship building capabilities, GRSE is also engaged in engine production and other engineering activities…. Over the years, GRSE has developed capabilities for in-house design and shipbuilding, and has made considerable contributions to the indigenous warship construction programme of our country,” Dr Srinivasa said.
Nonetheless, Minister Edghill lamented on the five-year delay after the project had already been finalised during the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C)’s previous stint in government.
“The money for the ferry was available; we came back to office five years later and no contract was awarded and signed… no ferry was built, and the monies still available,” Edghill posited.
According to the Minister, the previous A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) Government had attempted to award the contract to the highest bidder, which he said, “was not flying at the procurement levels.”
Nonetheless, Edghill said that the resumption of efforts to acquire the new vessel was necessary, especially given the fact that the existing Georgetown to Region One ferry, the MV Kimbia, has “developed serious problems”.
“These vessels are aged, that is why the PPP/C in the previous administration, was seeking to renew and modernize the fleet,” Edghill maintained.
He noted that when the PPP/C assumed office in August 2020, the Indian Government was engaged and the project to secure the new vessel resumed.
“Our technical teams, through a very highly iterative process, concluded all of the challenges and difficulties to ensure that we have a solid contract, and today, we could proudly announce the fruits of collaboration,” the Public Works Minister noted.
He noted that similar interventions were also done in the case of other “stalled” projects, including the supply of solar panels for hinterland communities, as well as the realisation of the East Coast to East Bank bypass road. Edghill said that these projects are all aimed at modernising Guyana.