Guyana on Wednesday said it is willing and ready to deploy the M.B Sandaka in a bid to restart the Guyana/Suriname ferry service, but a situation that persists in Suriname has not allowed for an agreement to be reached on a restart date.
“The Canawaima Ferry Service, the Ministry of Public Works and the Transport and Harbours Department is ready and willing to deploy the M.B Sandaka to restart operations between Guyana and Suriname,” Works Minister, Juan Edghill told reporters on Wednesday.
The two countries had previously agreed at the diplomatic level to restart on December 12, 2020, but that failed to materialise after hundreds of Cuban asylum seekers camped out at South Drain, Suriname in anticipation to use Guyana as a transshipment point to the USA.
Although much effort has been made to resolve the issue, the threat remains, and the two countries have not been able to agree at the diplomatic level on a new timeline for the restart of the ferry service, which was suspended since March 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Edghill said while the MV Canawaima remains in dry dock, the availability of a boat is in no way an impediment to the restart of the ferry service. He said the M.B Sandaka, as a substitute vessel, is readily available and has been since last year.
Edghill explained that the Head of the Maritime Administration (MARAD), Stephen Thomas, along with two technical officers, will travel to Suriname soon to inspect the vessel.
The two countries have committed to continue engagement with the private sectors to allow for the continuation of the service. The governments of Guyana and Suriname, after discussing the reopening of the ferry service, also called for an establishment of a Board of Directors for the MV Canawaima joint venture.
The authorities in Region Six, since the beginning of the pandemic in March, were faced with illegal border crossings between Guyana and Suriname. Without the ferry service, the alternative is using the ‘backtrack’ route to illegally enter and leave Guyana.