Guyana-Suriname ferry service may restart back month-end

by Wendella Davidson
Guyana Chronicle
August 26, 1999

THE Guyana Government is pushing to have the m.v. Canawaima sailing again by month-end. And efforts are being made to construct an all-weather access road leading to the Moleson Creek terminal by year-end.

Residents of Crabwood and Moleson Creek were told this by Chairman of the Canawaima Ferry Incorporated and Permanent Secretary in the Works Ministry, Mr Ganpat Sahai during a visit to the Guyana terminal Tuesday.

Accompanied by the two other directors from the Guyana side Mr Jules Kranenburg and Mr Winfried Fries; Mr Ronald Charles, Secretary; and Mr Ivor English of the Transport and Harbours Department (T&HD) and Chairman of the Canawaima Management Committee (Joint Venture), Sahai brought them up-to-date with the latest developments.

Present too were Mr Steven Setal, General Manager of Guyana terminal at Moleson Creek; Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Development, Mr Roshan Ally; and Paul Lyken, Roads Senior Superintendent, Region Six (East Berbice/Corentyne).

The $233.4M state-of-the-art ferry which plies the Corentyne River between Moleson Creek on the Guyana side and South Drain in Suriname, has been docked for some four months, much to the inconvenience of hundreds of passengers on both sides of the Corentyne River.

This has robbed the government coffers on both sides of the river of some US$20M in revenue.

Mr Sahai told the group that while officials at the Guyana terminal are ready to resume operations, Customs and Immigration officials on the neighbouring side are still not reporting for duty.

"I have been having discussions with officials on the other side and I'm hoping that the situation can be resolved and the vessel resume operation by month-end," he told them.

The initial disruption in the service was due to industrial action in neighbouring Suriname in May, but some two days after the situation returned to normal, the Customs and Immigration employees stationed at the South Drain Terminal, again walked off the job.

They are contending that the deplorable state of a portion of the access road makes it `unmotorable', hence their refusal to work.

The access roadway reportedly passes through agricultural terrain and the Suriname authorities find it extremely difficult to prevent combines and tractors from traversing the area.

Adverse weather condition have aggravated the situation.

Meanwhile, the Guyana officials are using the period of lay-up by the ferry to effect some adjustments to the guttering and other appointments at the terminal site.

Also raised at the meeting was the wanton dumping of garbage, old car parts and discarded pieces of logwood along the access road leading to the Moleson Creek terminal.

The perceived deliberate destruction of road signs as well as the throwing up of roadside shacks, especially at the entrance of the terminal building, were also looked at.

According to Mr Sahai, the garbage and other discards and shacks constitute a painful eyesore, particularly to foreigners passing through the area for the first time.

But the residents have denied that they are at fault and have laid the blame on persons living away from the area.

Most of the residents raised the problem of electricity and potable water and Mr Sahai assured them that these matters were being looked at.

Maimoon Khan, who has been living in Big Moleson Creek for 44 years, requested that a new school be built to accommodate the more that 40 children who are forced to walk or paddle for miles to get to the nearest school.

Because of this, many of them are not attending classes. Mr Sahai promised to discuss this with Minister of Education, Dr Dale Bisnauth.

In an invited comment on the non-operation of the m.v. Canawaima, Mr Sahai told the Chronicle, "A lot of people are concerned, including the European Union. As you know the ferry service started off very well November 6, and then sometime in May there was this strike in Suriname, followed by the bad road from South Drain to Nickerie. Up to today the service has not recommenced.

"We are in discussions with officials from Suriname with a view to getting the service back in operation as quickly as possible. And they have given us the undertaking that it is being dealt with at the level of the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Finance in that country, and we are going to follow this up.

"As a matter of fact, a Board meeting is to be held here during the latter half of next month, and a number of issues will be discussed in relation to the service," Sahai stated.

On the upgrading of the access roadway from Moleson Creek to Crabwood Creek, with funds provided by the European Union (EU), Sahai said bidding for the job is being done again as a result of an omission made by the consultant in the contract document.

The new closing date for the tenders is September month-end.

Meanwhile, English told the Chronicle he is aware of a number of cars being stranded on both sides of the river as a result of the ferry not working.

Told about complaints by some commuters that an inordinate length of time is being spent at some 11 check-in points at the Guyana port, English promised to investigate this.

One commuter had told the Chronicle that passengers are requested to go to 11 different check-points at the Moleson Creek terminal compared with three on the Suriname side.

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