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Development of Demerara Port, Guyana

Development of the Demerara port …Guyana’s most urgent priority

The delay in dredging the Demerara Navigational Channel has been identified by Guyana’s maritime sector as the basis for issues that have reduced opportunities for growth.

According to the Shipping Association of Guyana (SAG) in a review produced exclusively for Caribbean Maritime: “The country’s maritime sector continues to be challenged to respond positively to international developments in the transportation sector.”

The Demerara Harbour is currently the main hub of all import and export trade. However, there is a point of view in the country’s shipping community that the issues that have stymied opportunities for significant growth are ‘inextricably linked’ to the delay in implementing port development measures in the country’s main harbour. The Shipping Association of Guyana has been making its voice heard on this issue (that is, the need to do major work on the Demerara port). It received the support of the Caribbean Shipping Association when CSA President Carlos Urriola visited and addressed the Association in 2010. Then, last year, the SAG’s lobby to develop a public-private sector partnership that would deliver a workable solution to enhance and modernise existing port infrastructure recorded further success. The SAG reportedly attracted broad private-sector support, particularly from the main business organisation, the Private Sector Commission.

This development initiative by the SAG is expected to generate significant benefits for all operators in the maritime sector, especially for entrepreneurs involved in the sugar, timber, fuel and cement industries.


Economic integration with Brazil

The Demerara port is also expecting a tremendous boost in cargo exports in the years to come. Last year, the private sectors in Guyana and Brazil formally entered into an economic integration agreement and by the end of the year the initial market survey was nearing completion. With Guyana positioned on the Atlantic seaboard close to the countries of the Caribbean, Brazilian business operators have identified the tremendous benefits for export to be derived from using cross-country corridors and overland transport systems to access the Demerara port.

Officials from the Brazilian business support organisation, Sebrae, indicated early in the negotiations that transporting Brazilian produce, especially from the southern states of Roraima and Amazonia, through Guyana to the Demerara port would be less time-consuming and costly than using the Brazilian Atlantic ports in the north.

The government of Guyana is clearly enthusiastic and has been proactive in facilitating this economic integration programme between the two South American countries. The Guyana government has reportedly allocated an 80-acre parcel of land in the border town of Lethem for construction of a huge transhipment facility.

“The SAG intends to spearhead the process that will involve movement of cargo through Guyana’s road and river corridors from Lethem to the Georgetown Port,” said the Association in a statement of commitment.

The membership of SAG examined these initiatives very carefully at a high-level caucus last October. The caucus was called to prioritise the maritime enhancement strategy for quick implementation during this year.

Conscious of its role of representing maritime interests and championing maritime development in an ongoing dialogue between the commercial sector and governmental oversight bodies, the SAG’s timetable for this year includes frequent engagements with these various entities. This dialogue between all the relevant agencies and departments will help to keep the main issues affecting the maritime sector at the top of the national development agenda.

The consensus is that the most urgent agenda item, by far, is the long-overdue development of the Demerara Harbour.

“The urgency of this programme cannot be overstated,” said the SAG. “It has a direct bearing on the viability of local commerce and Guyana’s capacity to sustain existing market agreements with countries in the Caribbean, North America and Europe.”


Upgrading human resources

In its thrust for development, the SAG is mindful of the need for its staff to be well trained. The SAG has linked viability of the maritime sector to the skill and capabilities of its workforce.

“The drive to significantly improve the viability of Guyana’s Maritime sector in 2012 will also involve closer collaboration with the Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI) in the area of training and skill development,” said the SAG. “The CMI had, in the past, facilitated a diploma-level programme at the Critchlow Labour College and with the University of Guyana. SAG is already in discussion with the CMI seeking technical assistance to resuscitate university-level programmes in Maritime Transportation and Transport Logistics.” 


Meanwhile, private terminal owners and all other service providers have begun to identify the skills needed at all levels of their operations. The resulting needs analysis is expected to form the basis for SAG’s renewed advocacy with the country’s Ministry of Education to include maritime academic programmes in the curriculum at the University of Guyana.