New North-West District ferry encountered difficulties on maiden voyage

Last Updated on Monday, 14 August 2023, 21:32 by Denis Chabrol

Public Works Minister Juan Edghill on Monday said the engines of the new North-West District (NWD) vessel, MV Ma Lisha, sucked in silt while departing Georgetown on Thursday at low tide resulting in a delayed arrival at Kumaka, in response to claims that the vessel encountered engine trouble during its maiden voyage.

“There was no engine failure. All that happened- and it happened even before- because of the mud settlement and how high the siltation is; the engine when it’s operating in those low water areas; we left in the low tide. In those low water areas, somehow we are getting silt coming in and that constant buildup of the silt could affect the engine,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.

Mr Edghill explained that after the vessel cleared the low water, “we slowed down, cleaned out the engines and continued the journey”, a process that lasted no more than 20 minutes.

He could not say when the long-term solution of dredging the Demerara River would be done because that is a capital cost, but the immediate solution might have to be the installation of a “strainer” to prevent the silt from affecting the engine.

A well-placed source said the MV Ma Lisha made it into Kumaka on Friday with one engine. “They got one engine working and that’s what took them into port,” the source told Demerara Waves Online News. The source said the crew managed to start one of the engines 10 minuts before Mr Edghill arrived on Thursday.

Half hour after departure, one of the engines was shut down and the captain allowed the boat to drift but still on course to its destination, the source said. Though Transport and Harbours Department crew members were trained to operate the boat which has “brand new engines and viable components,” the source expressed concern about their capacity to operate the vessel which was acquired at a cost of GY$2.5 billion from India.

Asked whether the vessel arrived on time, the Public Works Minister said the MV Ma Lisha travelled at different speeds during different parts of the journey, slowing where there was low water and small vessels heading into Port Kaituma. “We had to slow down considerably,” he said.

The trip should have taken to 12 to 15 hours, but actually took 18 hours, having arrived about 12 PM Thursday. He said the vessel was expected to arrive earlier if it had sailed at 15 knots per hour “but we can’t.”

The Public Infrastructure Minister was asked whether the planners considered siltation in designing the vessel to which he responded that “that’s not a manufacturer’s problem.” He related that the vessel is equipped with engines to travel at a certain draught but there is heavy siltation at the berth. “We have to do dredging… The Government of Guyana has to do some dredging in the area where the vessel is berthing so that when it is pulling out, it doesn’t pick up that kind of siltation,” he said.