Berbice chamber calls for inquiry into GPL operations By Daniel Da Costa
Stabroek News
October 30, 2003

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The Berbice Chamber of Commerce and Development Association (BCC&DA) is calling for an inquiry into the operations of the Guyana Power and Light Inc. in Berbice. The call was made yesterday by Ramesh Maraj, past president of the association, during a meeting with Prime Minister Sam Hinds and GPL’s Chief Operations Officer Bharrat Dindial to address the shortfall in electricity in Regions Five and Six over the past two weeks caused by major equipment failure at three of the power company’s installations.

According to Dindial, an inquiry will be launched into the failure of a Caterpillar set at No. 53 Village which might have been due to “some human error.”

Maraj had earlier referred to poor management and malpractices by some employees of the company in the region. And Dindial in response stated that four experienced technicians from the company’s Demerara system will soon be sent to the No. 53 sub-station to boost its manpower capabilities.

On Tuesday afternoon and into the evening, the Prime Minister and his team met with the business community at Rose Hall and Corriverton to discuss the situation. On the Corentyne, a number of businesspersons called for power to be supplied mostly during the day, a suggestion which was tabled by Re- gional Chairman Kumkarran Ramdass at yesterday’s meeting in New Amsterdam. Just six members of the business community in New Amster-dam attended the early morning meeting at the boardroom. Among them was President of the Berbice Chamber, Gurdat Marray.

According to Ramdass, the outages have had a negative impact on the business community while Dindial noted that “the situation in Berbice has always been a critical one requiring significant maintenance. It has been characterised by one emergency after another”. Hinds recalled that a similar situation occurred in March/April.

Asked by one member of the Chamber why the power company persisted with the use of mobile Caterpillar sets when they have been proving problematic over recent times, Dindial said “they are cheaper and easy to acquire but are not peaking sets and are not made to work 24 hours a day.” Five of the existing Caterpillar sets in the region, he said, are new yet only five out of a total of nine are presently in operation. The No.3 Mirrlees unit which has been out of operation for almost two years now incurred some $150 million in rehabilitation costs but still remains inoperative.

Questions have been raised also over the cost of leasing four Caterpillar sets from the United States at US$180,000 per month against repairing the No.3 unit. The four sets are expected to leave Miami on Friday and will arrive in Guyana ten days later. The cost of rehabilitating this unit, according to Dindial, will be in the vicinity of US$800,000 compared to the US$600,000 stated a few months ago by another senior GPL official. The four Caterpillar sets will be expected to generate approximately six megawatts while the Mirrlees units have a capacity of 4.5 megawatts each.

The Chief Operations Officer also disclosed that spares for the No. 4 unit were expected to be trucked to Canefield yesterday. At Tuesday’s press conference Ronald Alli, Chairman of the Board of Directors, told reporters that the No. 4 Mirrlees unit will be taken out of service from this coming weekend and repairs would be completed in approximately six weeks. However, at yesterday’s meeting, Dindial said the unit will be taken out of service in another two weeks. At the moment, five Caterpillar sets and the No. 4 Mirrlees set are generating approximately 11 megawatts of power with the peak demand at nights around 14 megawatts.

Dindial is promising that by mid-November some 16.5 megawatts of power would be available in the system. However, the No. 4 is not likely to return to service until the week of December 21-27. The four mobile sets which are being leased are not expected to be installed until the third week of November. Work on two additional mobile sets at Canefield and Onverwagt is expected to commence next week while work on the 2.5-megawatt General Motors unit at Onverwagt is slated to commence on Sunday. This unit, according to Dindial, is expected to return to service around November 15.

Meanwhile, consumers on the West Coast Berbice have been bearing the brunt of the daily outages with the total shutdown of the Onverwagt station. Two Caterpillar sets and the GM unit are stationed at the station. Dindial when asked by Stabroek News about the supply to the sub-region, said that power is being fed to as far as Calcutta from Georgetown while the 69Kva transmission line from Canefield to Onverwagt is also feeding the area despite the shortfall within the system.

However, residents in the sub-region told this newspaper that they are only being supplied with power for a mere four hours a day. In one case the supply was disrupted from last Sunday morning until Monday afternoon. Another section of the sub-region was without power for some 24 hours between Monday and Tuesday afternoon.

President of the Upper Corentyne Chamber of Com-merce and Industry (UCCC&I), David Subnauth told Stabroek News yesterday that the situation has become intolerable and is affecting production, potential investment and every sphere of activity. The Chamber, he said, is still pursuing two options, either a management contract for the Berbice operations or a complete takeover. The Chamber, he said, expects to recruit the services of a well-known accountant to assist in formulating its proposal for submission to government.

Meanwhile, the daily outages are continuing to affect and afflict thousands of consumers across Region Six and the West Berbice sub-region. During the day, the outages vary in duration from eight hours while at nights, it is in the vicinity of between five and six hours.