New safety measures, protocols being implemented for vessels traversing Demerara River

New safety measures and protocols are being implemented for the Demerara Harbour Bridge and the new bridge under construction, to ensure a smooth flow of ocean-going vessels that traverse across the Demerara River.

These measures and protocols were developed and approved by the Ministry of Public Works in collaboration with the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD), the Transport and Harbour Department (T&HD), and the Coast Guard.

This endeavour aims to safeguard critical infrastructure and to ensure safe maritime operations in the vicinity.

MARAD’s Director General, Steven Thomas, underscored the importance of preventing damage to the existing or new bridge structures.

MARAD Director General, Steven Thomas at the vessel owners and operator’s stakeholder meeting

He was speaking during the stakeholder meeting hosted at the T&HD Sports Club in Thomas Lands, Georgetown, on Friday.

Thomas said vessels are presently permitted to stem the tidal current, a measure designed to prevent any potential harm to either of the bridges.

“This new bridge is a transformative project and the current harbour bridge is one of the major arteries in Guyana, so we don’t want them to be damaged in any circumstance,” he emphasised.

Stakeholders at the meeting

He further highlighted the importance of ensuring that all mechanical gears on vessels are fully functional.

Thomas then advised against attempting to transit the bridge, stating that if there’s any suspicion of an efficiency issue, it can compromise control.

Stakeholders were also cautioned against overloading their vessels.

“When you charter under the bridge, please do not overload. Make sure that you have adequate clearance because failure to do so could lead to loss of control and a potential collision with either the new bridge or the current harbour bridge,” he cautioned.

Currently, the bridge is only open for daylight navigation, and all vessels must receive prior approval before transiting. Vessels exceeding 24 metres and tugs must be equipped with an automatic identification system.

Meanwhile, General Manager of the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation (DHBC), Wayne Watson announced the installation of a security box on the Eastern Pontoon under the High Span Channel, which will operate on a 24-hour basis, seven days per week.

DHBC General Manager, Wayne Watson at the vessel owners and operator’s stakeholder meeting

This security presence will primarily coordinate with MARAD and the Coast Guard in cases of any violation of the 6:00 am to 6:00 pm transit time.

He further noted that the retractor span schedule will be published at least two to three weeks in advance each month to enable agents and vessel owners to plan their logistics efficiently.

Meanwhile, the New Demerara River Bridge is a remarkable engineering feat.

It is a hybrid cable stay beam guarder concrete bridge, built to United States American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) standards.

The bridge will consist of four lanes and will span 2.6 kilometres, connecting Nandy Park on the East Bank of Demerara to La Grange on the West Bank. Its total width, including the four lanes, shoulders, and median, will be 23.6 metres, providing ample space for safe and efficient traffic flow.

With a height of 50 metres, the bridge is specifically designed to accommodate Handymax vessels passing underneath. The minimum horizontal width of the navigation span is 210 metres, but the final design is anticipated to have a more extensive horizontal span. Importantly, this bridge is engineered with a lifespan of 100 years.

This project is expected to be completed within 24 months, with the major works scheduled for completion on December 31, 2024. Its ambitious scope and transformative potential underscore the government’s commitment to enhancing infrastructure and facilitating safer and more efficient transportation throughout the region.

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