The rapid increase in offshore oil and gas operations is resulting in more marine traffic passing through Guyana’s main channel, the Demerara River. Dredging is required to facilitate this increase, and the government intends to do that in less than five years, said President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali on Saturday.
The Demerara River is currently Guyana’s main hub of all import and export trade, but at a depth of only six metres, the river is quite shallow due to heavily siltation. It only allows marine traffic in one direction at any given time. Because of this, Dr. Ali explained, cruise ships and larger cargo vessels are dissuaded from docking at the Georgetown Port.
Government intends to make the river suitable for two-way traffic. It sees 10 metres as an ideal depth.
The President said, “Just using the projection of the most basic of growth in this river, within five years, less than five years, we have to get that to two-way, we have to create a two-way channel.”
Government would also need to create a diversion channel on the West side of the Demerara River, Dr. Ali explained. This would offer a different route for excess water to flow, mitigating flooding.
Head of Guyana’s Private Sector Commission, Paul Cheong said the current state of the channel puts businesses at a competitive disadvantage due to high freight rates. Cheong said, “When you compare our rates with other countries in the Caribbean, we are twice that and it is because of the river channel.”
GAICO Construction Company recently acquired a US$7.5 million dredge to boost its capacity and help widen the Demerara Channel. The government allocated monies in the 2022 budget to facilitate same.
Last December, Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill revealed that weekly calls at the Georgetown Port increased to 52, from just seven vessels before offshore operations started.
And with more projects coming on stream in the Stabroek Block, this number is expected to climb even higher. With that, also comes the need for more port facilities and shore bases. Edghill said in October that eight such projects have been given the greenlight to provide similar services as Guyana Shore Base Inc.