The Guyanese River Pilot who was steering the Panamanian fuel tanker when it slammed into the Demerara Harbour Bridge early on Saturday morning causing major structural damage to the bridge, has been suspended by the Maritime Administration Department.
An investigation has been launched into the accident which has resulted in the key bridge across the Demerara River being closed for an unspecified length of time, forcing commuters to now seek boats to cross between the two shores.
The fuel tanker, MV Tradewind Passion which was transporting fuel for Guyoil, was the last of five ships to transit the bridge when it collided with the structure.
Minister of Public Works Juan Edghill explained that as the vessel approached the bridge, the shift supervisor at the bridge, repeatedly warned the river pilot that he was outside of the channel and should turn around to avoid a collision.
The shift supervisor was forced to jump from the tower at the bridge as the vessel continued to head towards the bridge. The supervisor injured his leg in that jump. He is currently hospitalised.
The river pilot who was steering the ship was tested for alcohol and drug use but both of those tests returned negative results.
“We have established a Board of Inquiry into this and that Board of Inquiry will comprise Captain Joseph Lewis who is a Marine Officer and Surveyor of Ships, Ms. Thandi McAllister who is the Legal Director of MARAD, Ms. Yolanda Hughes who is a member of the Board and is a staff of Transport and Harbours Department, Inspector Ross from the Marine Wing of the Guyana Police Force, Lt. Colonel David Shamsudeen from the Coast Guard, the Chief Transport and Planning Officer of the Ministry of Public Works, Mr Patrick Thompson and Mr Dmitri Ali who is a member of the Board of the Guyana National Shipping Corporation and is also an engineer”, Minister of Public Works Juan Edghill announced.
He told a Saturday afternoon press conference at the closed bridge that the Board of Inquiry will begin its work on Sunday.
It was explained that the accident resulted in four spans of the bridge being damaged which represents the worst damage to be suffered to the bridge at any one time.
A number of private sector agencies involved in steel work and fabrication are assisting the government agencies with the replacement of the damaged components of the bridge.
“We want to assure the public that the Government of Guyana, we are doing everything humanly possible, we are sparing no resource, we are taking no short cuts, but we want to deliver to you a service that so many persons depend on daily, for the usage of the bridge”, the Minister said.
With vehicles not being able to traverse the bridge, river taxis/passenger boats have been given clearance to operate 24hrs a day to allow passage between the two banks of the Demerara river.
Safety measures, including adequate lighting and monitoring have been put in place to ensure the safe passage of the river taxis at night.
With no timeline for the repairs to the bridge confirmed, it was explained that barges will be employed to allow trucks with supplies to be taken across the waterway.
Minister within the Ministry of Public Works, Deodat Indar said the inconvenience caused by the damage will affect several sectors including trade and commerce, emergency transportation and the provision of various essential services in the West Demerara area.
“All these things are affected and that is what we are dealing with here, and not just the fixing of the spans. There is a repercussion that happens”, he said.
“We need to know what happen”, Minister Edghill lamented, as he bemoaned the damage to the bridge and the setbacks it is already causing.
The Demerara Harbour Bridge was opened in 1978 and has been serving since then as the key link between Regions Three and Four.