Government, Ballast Nedam sign MOU for Berbice River Bridge

by Sharon Lall
Guyana Chronicle
September 28, 2000

DUTCH bidder Ballast Nedam International, the firm chosen to construct the Berbice River bridge, has joined the Guyana Government in signing a Memorandum of Understanding for the project.

The document was signed yesterday afternoon at the Office of the Prime Minister, Wight's Lane, Kingston, Georgetown.

Those affixing their signatures to the MOU were Mr Kees Wierda, Commercial Manager of Ballast Nedam; William Hinds, President of International Financial Associates Inc and Financial Advisor/Arranger for the Berbice River project; Prime Minister Sam Hinds and Public Works Minister, Anthony Xavier.

Also present were Winston Brassington, Head of the Privatisation Unit and Chairman of the Private Sector Commission, George Jardim.

The Republic Bank of Trinidad and Tobago has expressed its willingness to help in the area of debt financing for the project, Weirda told reporters at the end of talks on the MOU.

He noted that for any venture there is need for equity and debt financing to make sure that total capital is in place for an investment.

Ballast Nedam and its co-investors will make sure that the equity is put in place, he assured.

Wierda added, though, that a total figure in this regard is yet to be decided and that will be subject to a final "investigation" about the level of the Berbice investment.

Ballast Nedam, a construction firm with headquarters in the Netherlands, was selected ahead of four other bidders to construct the bridge using a Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) approach to the tune of US$39.8M.

An engineer in the Ministry of Surface Transport in India was made available to Guyana to undertake a pre-feasibility study on the bridge project.

Weirda said the company was proud to be selected as organiser for the (BOT) development of the Berbice Bridge.

"We have proven experience and track records in these types of projects...not only to make sure (of the) design and build but organised the finance and legalities (to) make it a true BOT project," the official said.

The Prime Minister, who is acting as President, noted that there were enough "high level" positions taken yesterday to guide the parties in more detailed agreements for the project.

"We have looked at all the resources that could be made available for a full transportation system across the Berbice River...

"If you are going to put a bridge in you have to put roads to the bridges," the Prime Minister said.

He described the signing of the MOU as a milestone in the desire of the Guyanese populace to have a bridge across the Berbice River for direct commercial benefits. The Bridge will also inspire national confidence that the country is on the right track to development.

The Prime Minister anticipated that before the end of November, a larger and more definitive agreement would be signed to cover areas such as shareholders, loan agreements, contracts and all other things leading up to the construction of the Berbice Bridge.

Minister Xavier reiterated that the signing of the MOU was the first step in the venture, and he said once all the parties "put their shoulders together" nothing should prevent them from concluding a development agreement in the near future.

The signing of the MOU will now allow the Government negotiating team to move to Level Two - the completion and development of the actual agreement for the construction of the concrete bridge which is expected to have a lifespan of 75 years.

The Government in July named its team for talks with Ballast Nedam which has a track record of constructing two bridges in neighbouring Suriname.

The administration has as head of its negotiating team, Major General Norman McLean (Retired), who is Human Resources Manager of the Omai gold mining company.

Other members are Tarchand Balgobin, Head of the Project Cycle Unit, Ministry of Finance; Winston Brassington, Head of the Privatisation Unit; Ramdial Bhookmohan, President of the Berbice Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Dr Gobin Ganga, Research Director, Bank of Guyana; Joe Holder, Project Manager and George Jardim, President of the Private Sector Commission.

Actual construction on the Berbice River is slated to start before the end of this year.

Ballast Nedam is associated in the project with David Klautky and Associates, Amazon Construction, B.K. International and Courtney Benn Construction Company.

The Berbice River Bridge will be sited upstream of the Everton Crossing, on the east bank at Standvastigheid and at Brothers on the west bank.

Some 10 kilometres of access roadway will be constructed at Orison and Standvastigheid to facilitate the bridge crossing.

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