Even as officials assess the “significant” damage caused to the Demerara Harbour Bridge when a fuel tanker slammed into it, preparations are underway to close the east-west thoroughfare from Wednesday night to Thursday morning to conduct repairs.
General Manager of the Demerara Harbour Bridge, Rawlston Adams said the bridge would be closed to vehicular traffic from 10 O’clock Wednesday night to 4 O’clock Thursday morning to undertake the emergency work.
The official said that currently, the bridge is not being retracted to facilitate the passage of ships and trawlers for fear that it would not close back easily. “The concern is that because we don’t have the connecting posts and the anchorage is compromised, that is why we are not taking the chances to open the bridge because we anticipate that there would be some difficulties closing it back,” said Adams.
Retraction is expected to resume on Thursday.
Adams said Pritchard-Gordon tankers- owners of the United Kingdom-registered fuel tanker, Lucy PG-have already agreed to compensate the DHB for the damage. “We expect that the owners of the vessel would bear all the costs. I have had an initial discussion and they have made a commitment that once we do a joint inspection and we assess the cost, they have given a commitment that they will stand the cost for the repairs,” he said. The damage includes two sets of cluster piles that are used as guides for marine pilots to line up their vessels to transit the bridge, four connecting posts, one pontoon and the transom.
A joint inspection by officials of DHB, Maritime Administration (MARAD) and surveyors was expected to be conducted Monday afternoon to determine the “full cost” of the damage.
He assured that the DHB would not have to await spares for the repairs. “We have those in stock. We had fabricated those components a long time ago in the event of such so we are confident that we have the necessary resources to fix and restore the bridge into its proper order,” said Adams. The Berbice Bridge Company was expected to loan the DHB two buoys to be used as markers as a substitute for the cluster piles.
Based on information provided by the Supervisor who was on duty Sunday morning, the fuel tanker’s pilot, Mr. Gittens (one name provided) was instructed twice to orient the vessel properly to transit the bridge after it was observed that it was situated diagonally.
The first instruction was given when the vessel was 800 meters from the bridge and the second one was at 500 meters. On both occasions, he replied saying that “I know what I am doing.” As the pilot engaged the engine to reorient the north-bound vessel, he had already hit the first and second cluster of greenheart piles and eventually the north-western section of the bridge.
“When the bridge was hit, it was pushed out of line. It took us from the time of the incident to about 9:30 yesterday (Sunday) morning to realign the bridge to open the bridge to traffic,” he said.
MARAD and the Marine Police are conducting a probe. Lucy PG is now moored at the Shell fuel depot station, Demerara River. No fuel was spilled during the incident.