Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson has announced that speedboats will operate between Georgetown and Vreed-en-Hoop until 10 p.m. as a temporary measure as repairs continue on the Demerara Harbour Bridge.
“…we are going to rent some portable lights and put in some navigation…we are going to keep the water taxi service open until 10pm tonight,” the Minister said.
Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) will have four emergency vessels available between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
The Demerara Harbour Bridge is closed to vehicular traffic until further notice after a Panamanian barge – Marina Oceanic 3004- along with a tug collided with the bridge about 01:30 hrs Monday.
The vessel has been impounded and the crew members have been detained for questioning by the Police and MARAD.
The General Manager for the Demerara Harbour Bridge Company, Rawlston Adams, said the vessel was loaded with gravel material.
He said the authorities are still assessing the extent of the damage to the 41-year-old structure.
“The barge came into contact at two locations – span 12, 13 – and again at span 16 we saw some severe damages.
“The bridge is completely out of alignment between the high span and the retractor span,” Mr Adams said.
Emergency works are ongoing at the bridge but the contractors are being delayed because of the spring tide. Mr Adams explained that when there is high tide, which occurs almost every two hours, no work can be done.
“This morning we were able to reconnect the connecting post at span 13. That was to facilitate us moving over to span 16. Getting equipment over to span 16 we had to put in some temporary decking.
“We will be working at span 16 to reconnect the connecting post; we had to suspend all work due to the tide, the tide is really against us,” Mr Adams said.
Meanwhile, nine out of ten anchor chains are down and according to Mr Adams they are looking to replace four anchor chains.
He said this will be able to facilitate the flow of light traffic by Tuesday.
“If we can do that then we will be in a better position to work later into the evening and possibility tomorrow; hopefully if that is done we will be able to open to some light traffic,” Mr Adams said.
All marine transit was also suspended because of the bridge’s alignment. Mr Adams said that for the retractor span to close the bridge has to be completely aligned.
“We cannot take the chance to open the retractor span. As a result of that we had to suspend all marine transits.”
The Panamanian vessel drifted for hours and was not anchored in the designated place before it crashed into the bridge.
The crew on-board were all foreign nationals and did not speak English.
The Public Infrastructure Minister said that when the Captain contacted the Light House, the only words they understood was “mayday.”
The Minister said the Light House immediately contacted the Harbour Master’s Office but it was already late as the barge had already collided with the bridge.
Patterson recommended that anyone crossing with barges and tugs should be powered, managed and controlled by MARAD as this is the second or third time for the year a barge came into contact with the bridge.