THE international maritime industry has grown in leaps and bounds in recent years, but due to the shallow draft of the Demerara River, Guyana has been unable to attract the massive vessels which now characterize the industry. The main problem is and has always been this feature of Port Georgetown which makes it un-navigable for the ‘behemoths’ of the modern-day industry, with a consequent low volume of visits and lack of economic opportunities from transshipments.
However, all this is about to change.
An Official of CGX Energy Inc., the Canada-based oil and gas company, said last week that the mouth of the Berbice River will, by year-end, be transformed into a modern deep-water seaport (or deep-water harbour) capable of accommodating ‘post Panamax ships’, those massive supertankers and container vessels which have merely been passing by.
“More and bigger ships can stop. This seaport will set the stage for Guyana becoming a hub port for vessels of any size, with the consequent economic benefits not only to East and West Berbice but the country as a whole.”
The facility will also, in time, provide quick access to a seaport for the industrial areas of North-East Brazil when the transport corridor between Guyana and Brazil (in the form of the Lethem to Linden, and by extension Berbice, road) is completed.
The CGX project is privately financed and is being done in collaboration with a local associate, Grand Canal industrial Estate Inc and the Government of Guyana mainly through the Guyana Office for Investment (GO-INVEST).
Meanwhile, an official source has noted that the CGX deep-sea port is being undertaken amidst increasingly vocal calls for improvement of the services Guyana is offering to the international maritime industry.
“As Guyana plans to deepen global integration, transport infrastructure constitutes one of the most significant barriers to global competitiveness.
“Improvement in the maritime transport sector is crucial for Guyana’s regional and global integration,” the source stated.
As recently as two months ago, the President of the Caribbean Shipping Association Mr. Carlos Urriola-Tam had advised that if this country did not have deep harbours and significantly improved ports, the large ships would not come here and, as such, a situation which would translate into huge losses in revenue.
He made the remarks during a presentation to the Guyana Shipping Association on the topic: ‘Global Economics, Trade & Maritime Transport - possible impact on Guyana.’
He said the general prediction in the international maritime world was that a great boom is expected to take place, particularly in Latin America, and Guyana would do well to establish the necessary synergies with Brazil and Caribbean countries.
In an update on progress of the construction of the Berbice deep-sea port last week, administrative manager of CGX, Mr. Tarachandra Kellawan, said it was about 20% complete.
The entire massive facility is prefab with the big cranes fitting the pieces together after the foundation is laid.
“The schedule is that it will be finished by the end of this year, he said.
The CGX will be establishing its own turning basin and its own channel to leave the wharf which will be independent of the turning basin and channel being used by the bauxite transportation vessels.
Kellawan disclosed that the CGX deep-sea port will serve not only as a staging area for its off-shore drilling facilities, but also as a commercial wharf facility capable of accommodating deep-draft vessels and ships of over 80,000 deadweight tonnes.
“Basically, we are catering for our own needs which is oil exploration but in the same vein it is an investment and it is designed to pay for itself,” he posited.
He pointed out that many of today’s supersized vessels cannot come to Guyana because of the restrictions of the Georgetown Harbour.
The company believes that with its improved port and handling facilities, a substantial part of Guyana’s cargo will end up being diverted to the Berbice seaport.
CGX said it will be charging these carriers for the facility at rates which will be competitive.
Kellawan stressed, too, that in the long term, whenever the Lethem/Linden/Berbice paved road comes into play, the Berbice deep- sea port will be there to transship cargo to and from Brazil.
Meanwhile, the economy of East and West Berbice is already beginning to benefit from the works in progress.
The project is currently employing 80 persons in this construction stage and plans to employ 60 persons permanently to run the deep-sea port on completion.
CGX Energy Inc’s President, Kerry Sully, had late last year said there was a 50% chance of oil being discovered in Guyana within the next 12 months.
Preparations for drilling are underway locally with CGX and its partners including Spanish oil giant, Repsol, preparing to spud the deepest well in the region, offshore Guyana this year.