Modernisation of MARAD takes shape with commissioning of $535M pilot boat


President Irfaan Ali’s promise to modernise the fleet of the Maritime Administration (MARAD) is beginning to take shape with the acquisition of a modern pilot boat.

The boat was commissioned on Wednesday during an impressive ceremony as Dr. Ali reminded that the modernisation of the maritime administration was necessary for the full economic transformation of the country.

It comes with continued investments in Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and increased traffic along Guyana’s waterways.

At a cost of $535 million, the boat was fabricated in France to the specifications of the Guyana Maritime Administration (MARAD), offering improved safety, comfort and speed.

It is called the Arapaima and will be used to transport maritime pilots between land and the inbound or outbound ships that they are piloting.

Four such boats were first purchased in the 1980s but 40 years later just one remains in operation, resulting in limited safe pilot boats available.

The entire fleet of just about eight boats is aged and is altogether slow and unreliable.

A replica of The Arapaima

A new boat was purchased in 2018 by the former APNU+AFC administration for roughly $300 million but a year later, another $300 million was used to purchase spare parts and according to Dr. Ali, the boat is costing the government $50 million annually to maintain.

It was plagued with problems from its inception and continues to be unreliable in service to the shipping community and Guyanese who use the waterways.

The new boat arrived in Guyana on March 26, 2023, and according to Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill, this will reduce the time it takes for pilots to reach ships in open waters.

“With this new vessel, the time for pilots to embark and disembark will be cut by 75% and this is just the beginning of great things that will be accomplished with the pilot boat Arapaima,” Edghill told the gathering at the Ruimvedlt, Georgetown location of the Coast Guard Headquarters.

Outlining the necessity of such a boat, the Public Works Minister noted that in 2022, over 300 vessels required pilotage, and for 2023, that number has already doubled.

President Dr Irfaan Ali was given a tour of The Arapaima (Photo: Office of the President/April 19, 2023)

The Maritime Administration is also tasked with inspecting vessels in Guyana’s EEZ and accompanying the acquisition of new assets is the requisite training of staff.

Addressing the bigger plans for the sector, Dr. Ali posited that the full economic transformation of the country will not be realised without the modernization of the maritime sector.

“The acquisition of this vessel is a drop in a wide ocean given the current challenges and difficulties. We have aging assets,” he added.

“This vessel was acquired with one-year free maintenance and warranty and after that from year two it is anticipated that it will cost no more than $20 million to maintain it annually.

“It will also utilize 30 percent less fuel, that in itself tells a story,” Dr. Ali said.

Dr. Ali promised continued siltation and the removal of wreckage from the Demerara River which leads to port Georgetown – Guyana’s main port.

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