$935M contract signed for West Berbice rip rap sea defence

Stabroek News
May 25, 2001

Contracting firm B.K. International signed a $935 million sea defence contract with the Ministry of Public Works and Communications yesterday, which was described by Minister Anthony Xavier as one of the largest ever awarded to a single contractor.

The contract is for the construction of 2.1 kilometres of rip rap sea defences at Bel Air-Mon Choisi, West Coast Berbice and is funded by the Caribbean Development Bank.

Xavier said this project along with others already completed represented 50 per cent of the total sea defence work to be tackled.

The minister expressed confidence that the Bel Air-Mon Choisi project will be completed within the 12-month stipulated time.

"I have not been disappointed so far in B.K. [International], with their experienced staff and fleet of machinery...," he stated.

The project was designed by Dutch consultant Haskoning in association with local consultant SKRN'gineering. These two companies will supervise the works with the ministry having overall supervision.

The contract involves the construction of an earthen embankment, the placement of a filter layer consisting of a geo-textile fabric, and the installation of a 14-inch thick underlayer consisting of six-inch to ten-inch rocks and a 34-inch thick armour layer consisting of boulders. Xavier said the work will be done in two lots.

The first would be from Bel Air to Edderton costing $505 million then from Edderton to Mon Choisi.

Chief Sea and River Defence Officer in the Ministry of Public Works and Communications, George Howard, told reporters at the signing yesterday that the rip rap design was suitable for the conditions in Guyana.

He said the soils on the coast were weak and facilitated settlement of constructions. When a rip rap design settled it could be "topped up" with additional material to fortify the construction, Howard said, unlike the concrete sea wall construction which would break up when it settled.

Howard said the rip rap also enhanced the building up of the foreshore which reduced wave energy and boosted protection of the coast.

Another factor favouring rip rap was that the bulk of the material was local. Only the geotextile filter fabric had to be brought in from overseas, Howard said.

He added that the construction of rip rap sea defence was completed at a much faster rate than concrete designs.

In answer to a query, Xavier expressed disillusionment over the slow pace of the court matter concerning the emergency works at the Ogle/Turkeyen sea defence. The minister said he had been in discussion with the ministry's lawyers and urged them to hasten the matter so that work could commence.

If something was not done soon the nearby communities would be in danger from the impending high tides and, with the rainy season, there surely would be overtopping, he stated.

"If anything happens and there is damage to property, the ministry cannot be held responsible," Xavier said.

He pointed out that the Ogle/Turkeyen work was an emergency project but apparently it was not being taken as seriously as it should.

Apart from the West Berbice project, the ministry currently has a ten million Euros programme underway, which includes a stretch between Columbia and Capoey on the Essequibo Coast and at De Kinderen, Tuschen and Cornelia Ida in Region Three.

In addition, Howard said, the ministry would embark on a pilot project later this year of data collection to enhance the ministry's capacity to make informed decisions on sea defences. Data will be collected on components such as offshore wave height, wave speed, wind direction, and sediment gathering along the coastline. Aerial photography will be conducted and a socio-economic study will be done in Regions Two, Three and Four.

Howard said the data gathering would be an ongoing exercise and would be placed on a geographical information system.