Harbour bridge shut after barge slams into high span
No word on reopening By Oscar P. Clarke

Stabroek News
October 26, 2002

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The Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB) has been closed to vehicles until further notice after a Barama tug and barge slammed into a pontoon early yesterday severely damaging a section of the high span.

With badly twisted stanchions and several other broken components, officials were unable to say when the bridge would be open but parts are available in the country to effect the repairs.

This is the fourth accident for the bridge this year following mishaps with a Unamco tug and barge in May, a CRL tug and barge in July and a Mazaruni Granite tug and barge in September.

On this occasion the Barama Company Limited tug and barge, heading for the Land of Canaan factory, attempted to cross under the high span and ploughed into the bridge.

The incident which occurred at around 6:45 am yesterday has inconvenienced thousands of commuters on both sides of the Demerara River and piled pressure onto the ferry service. Cars have been stranded on both sides.

The Transport and Harbours Department ferry has been put into operation but this service will not carry across vehicles.

Stabroek News understands that the barge prior to hitting the pontoon shifted a pile cluster (posts strapped together) which acts as a guide to vessels using the underpass. As it crashed into the supporting pontoon the galvanized stanchions on which the eastern half of the high span rests were knocked out of place.

The barge, which was at the time being guided by a tug, was being manoeuvred through the high span.

Yesterday, work started in earnest to effect repairs to the damaged structure. Replacement parts are being sourced from DHB stocks but arrangements would have to be made with an American company Acro America to source additional stocks in the event of a future accident. Most parts for the galvanized structure have to be ordered to specification. Repairs are being undertaken by employees of the DHB who, officials said, are expected to work around the clock. The Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Coast Guard is also said to be assisting with logistics.

Speaking with reporters on the bridge yesterday DBL's General Manager, Nazrudeen Azeez, told reports that the twisted stanchions had resulted in the structure dropping some 3-4 ft. The stanchions act as supports for the high level span.

The stanchions Azeez said, had been badly twisted resulting in the structure being deemed unstable.

Although he was optimistic that DHB employees are capable of effecting the necessary repairs, Azeez was unable to bind himself to a time frame within which the works could be completed.

Questioned on reasons for the frequency with which the recent accidents were occurring Azeez cited non-compliance with procedures and strong tides which cause vessels to drift about.

Several commuters especially those on their way to Essequibo were observed by this newspaper on the east bank unaware of the situation but with looks of desperation as time progressed.

In the previous accidents, strong tides were cited as contributing to the collisions. In each of the cases with the exception of one, the agencies paid costs associated with the structural repair. According to Azeez only Unamco has thus far refused to pay any of the approximately $10M owed as a result of its tug and barge crashing into the retractor span disabling it.

Minister of Transport and Hydraulics, Anthony Xavier who was informed of the accident was expected to visit the site sometime yesterday afternoon.