Consortium officials due
Stabroek News
April 22, 2002

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John Lotz, team leader for the Berbice River Bridge Consortium (BRBC) was expected here last night to start negotiations with the government to bridge the Berbice River.

Bernard Matthews, the local partner in the consortium, said that the group had received a letter from the government seeking to confirm the consortium's interest in the project and inviting it to start negotiations as the second-ranked bidder.

Matthews said Lotz and another official were due and their first visit will be to the proposed site for the Berbice Bridge crossing today, where they are expected to spend an entire day. Meetings with the government are to commence tomorrow before the team leaves on Thursday.

The BRBC, which comprises UP Engineers and Group 5 of South Africa as well as Mongmotse Capital and Matthews & Associates, were among five groups which bid to bridge the Berbice River 23 months ago. Ballast Nedam International had emerged as the highest-ranked bidder.

However, Ballast Nedam walked away from the project last month, citing financial problems and the restructuring of its international operations. The government then invited BRBC for talks to move the process forward.

Matthews indicated last month that BRBC was still bullish on the project. In its initial project proposal, the consortia had anticipated having a contract with the government to construct the bridge within a month of commencing negotiations and once the data submitted was verified, to have actual construction take place some eight months later lasting 18 to 30 months. The traffic study to guide the project has already been completed, cutting time out of the proposed schedule.

BRBC has a commitment for financing for the project using the credit guaranteed scheme in South Africa which stipulates that once 70% of the inputs for a project are sourced from South Africa, financing would be available at rates between eight per cent and nine per cent per annum. The Capital Equipment Export Council of South Africa had earlier indicated its willingness to finance the feasibility study and detailed design of the bridge as pre start-up costs.

The bid price of the BRBC was US$45.9 million with the contract having a value of US$36.8 million and other charges associated with the project accounting for the rest of the sum. The sum is expected to be reduced, given that the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has already financed the traffic study, leaving detailed geotechnical investigations and designs as pre-construction work to be done. This price was above that of BNI, but the reworked BNI price based on negotiations reached US$43.5 million.