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Officials said that if all goes well with the regulatory and environmental obligations required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more cement could be made available on the local market and at a cheaper price in just over a year.
But a lower price would depend on the economics of the market, GNIC Chairman, Mr. Glen Khan told a news conference at the company's Water Street, Georgetown location.
He said that over the last six months, GNIC has been in discussions with the large Trinidadian-based cement company, TCL, about the possibility and potential of establishing a cement bagging facility at the GNIC wharf here.
"I am pleased to say that Trinidad Cement Limited (TCL) is prepared to move in that direction," Khan said in the presence of senior officials from the Trinidad company.
He, however, pointed out that the requisite approval from the EPA will first have to be sought and GNIC was going through that process.
According to Khan, the cement bagging facility would create an opportunity for Guyana to move into barging in a major way. He noted that Guyana has always been talked about as having wonderful potential, which, unfortunately, Guyanese have not been able to capitalise on.
"We at GNIC are looking at providing barging services to the interior because the intention is to transport sand to the Caribbean and bring back bulk cement and then bag it here," he said.
"But then what we see is also a great opportunity to look at our interior development and what we can do to support that process," he added.
Khan pointed out that many countries in Europe, and the Mississippi Delta in the United States, have all created development through barging.
"...we at GNIC believe that putting that (barging) as a low cost transport arrangement in place will help to stimulate some of the development for the interior," he said.
"Instead of bringing cement here (from Trinidad) as we now do - already bagged - and then discharge it to our customers, what we are considering now is establishing a facility...right here at the GNIC wharf, where we bring in bulk cement, bag it off here and then distribute it to the customers," said Mr. Kelvin Mahabir, General Manager of International Business and Marketing within the TCL group.
He said several options have been explored and looked at in the past in terms of setting up bagging facilities, but TCL now feels that GNIC is one site that has good potential for doing business since it is well located and spacious.
"What we (TCL) will be doing is bringing the bulk cement in a vessel; we then discharge that cement into storage facilities here and then we bag it off...," Mahabir explained.
Asked whether cement would then be cheaper in Guyana, he said this all comes down to the economics and the market situation.
He, however, hastened to point out that "the economics favour bringing cement in bulk and bagging it in Guyana". He said too that the intention, in terms of transport logistics, is to bring cement here in bulk on a vessel and then load the same vessel with sand for export on its return trip.
"In transport you need to have a two-way traffic and this is why the sand comes in and that is expected to help the Guyana economy in a major way, because if we can get some of our products into the Caribbean market and bring in products that we need, then we can look at the economics in it as (Guyana) stands to benefit", Mahabir said.
Responding to the same question, Khan said, "There are some positives in the overall scheme of things in looking at the barges and bringing cement in bulk in Guyana and one of those positives can be the reduction in the cost of cement."
He also noted that GNIC could build and manage its own barges.
A lot of people think of cement as "a dusty affair" but this is far from the truth since the cement is transported in hatches and then sucked into silos after which it is bagged in conditions which are really state of the art, he said.
"The state-of-the-art of cement bagging is really phenomenal in today's world," Khan told reporters.
Asked how soon the project is expected to come on stream, he said this will depend on how fast they get through with all the regulatory requirements and "once approval is given then we will be proceeding full speed ahead".
"The approval of the EPA is the first hurdle. Assuming that the considerations have been met, then you are looking at within nine and 12 months for the start of operations," he added.
The Guyanese market currently consumes about 120,000-150,000 tons of cement a year.
Meanwhile, Khan recalled that GNIC was divested just over six years ago and at that time, the late President Cheddi Jagan was very enthused with the relationship of a partnership between the workers of GNIC and the Laparkan group of companies.
He said this initiative has also been supported by the current Head of State, President Bharrat Jagdeo. Khan said too that the Government has done a lot to support GNIC as an organisation.
"The last six years have been challenging for GNIC. It has never been what one would consider as smooth sailing but nevertheless, we have met all those challenges and we have actually built on them...we have had many successes and sometimes we have had our own difficulties."
He said President Jagdeo recently agreed to convert $46M of lease payments towards the workers equity and this was part of the Government's support in "trying to bring GNIC alive".
Khan said he was pleased that there were several initiatives aimed at transforming GNIC into a national development organisation in Guyana.
The GNIC Chairman announced that next Thursday he will be signing a contract with a major shipping line, which would involve "transforming GNIC to being perhaps one of the best stevedoring wharf operation in Port Georgetown".
He also indicated that the company would be meeting the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) to discuss the development of the Princess Street area (in front of the company) where the intention is to repave the road there.
He said the company was also looking to build a 150,000 square foot warehouse to improve the quality of service and making it a great facility, both to the importing and exporting communities.
"Our game plan at GNIC is that we have a US$5M to US$10M investment programme over the next five years and this is expected to generate an additional 1,000 new jobs," Khan said.
He noted that there are lots of tangible and intangible benefits to be derived from this initiative.
Also at yesterday's news conference were Mr. William Swamy, Project Analyst, Caribbean Financial Services Corporation based in Barbados; Mr. James Devers, Managing Director of Enterprise Development Ltd., based in Trinidad; Mr. Carvil Duncan, Vice Chairman, GNIC; and Mr. Clinton Williams, Chief Executive Officer, GNIC.