Bridging the Corentyne River: We want bridge as quick as possible – President Santokhi
…joint working group given 4 weeks to finalise company for feasibility study
By Lakhram Bhagirat
Both Guyana and Suriname are eager to have the Corentyne River bridged in an effort to advance relations between the two South American nations.
The Surinamese Head of State, Chandrikapersad Santokhi, on Thursday at a joint press conference with Guyanese President Dr Irfaan Ali, said that the bridge was needed “as quick as possible”.
In November 2020, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between Guyana and Suriname to facilitate the bridging of the Corentyne River. It was reported last month that 38 bids were received and jointly reviewed by the two countries, with eight bidders eventually shortlisted.
President Santokhi, speaking directly to the investment required for the construction of the bridge, revealed that at a meeting with both countries’ Private Sectors on Thursday, he and President Ali invited the members to raise the funds to construct same.
“We want that bridge as quick as possible and that bridge should have not only a function where people can cross the border but that bridge will be very pivotal for the entire economic development, the industrial development for both sides of the countries. That bridge should bring very strategic development also towards the southern part of our country,” he said.
President Santokhi is currently leading a delegation of Surinamese Ministers and Private Sector representatives on a four-day State Visit to Guyana. This is the second time that Santokhi is officially visiting Guyana since taking office in 2020.
Joint Working Committee
President Ali said that with Thursday being the penultimate day for the visiting President’s stay in Guyana, they have had the chance to discuss a wide range of issues and the Corentyne River Bridge is one that dominated those discussions. He also added that persons from both countries were also following, closely, the developments on that front.
“We both recognised that we now need to consolidate actions to choose from the shortlisted companies that have submitted Expressions of Interests for the construction of this bridge. We have decided that the approach would be a design, build, finance, own and upgrade model.
“Our sides also have agreed that a Working Group will be established, which includes the addition of the Ministers of Finance to determine the investment and concessions package that will accompany this Expression of Interest in securing the financing, building, operating, and ownership of the bridge,” the Guyanese Head of State related.
Ali further related that the Working Group would be looking at the bridge model, taking into consideration the strategic development that will take place on both sides. The Working Group will take into consideration the now preferred model of design, build, finance, own and upgrade and put it to the shortlisted firms to determine whether they qualify for the feasibility study contract.
“In terms of the bridge and who will own the bridge, that is why we’re going out for a design, build, own, operate, and finance model…there is already interest that has been sent to both countries on building, designing, financing, operating and ownership of the bridge. The terms of that, and then the type of incentives, fiscal incentives, that both sides would have to give to offer as the package for investment that will be determined by the group,” Dr Ali explained.
Four weeks to make decision
Suriname news agency Waterkant had reported the shortlisted bidders as: China Road and Bridge Corporation (China); EGIS (France); Exp Services Inc; Pedelta; Arcadis; CEMCO (Canada, Spain, Netherlands, Guyana); FIGG/Sunecon/SRKN’gineering & Associates/E&A Consultans/P-ALL Consultants/ Environmental Management Consultant (United States of America); Politecnica and Rina JV/ILACO / SRKN’gineering & Associates (Italy, Suriname, Guyana); SYSTRA International Bridge Technologies Inc/ AP&G Consultancy Suriname NV/Delta Marine Consultants/Deltares (Dubai, Suriname, Netherlands); TYPSA/Leonard; Andra und Partner GmbH/FIRM (Spain, Germany, Suriname) and WSP Caribbean Ltd. (Trinidad).
At Thursday’s press conference, President Santokhi said that the Joint Working Committee would evaluate if the selected eight companies meet the new requirements to study the design, build, finance, own and operate model for the building of the Corentyne bridge.
“The technical advice from the maritime authorities of both countries will be included in the decision to determine where and how the Corentyne bridge will be built. This advice will include the State Oil Staatsolie study on the development of Suriname’s west on the decision regarding the construction of the Corentyne bridge. This decision must be made within four weeks,” he said.
“We are in support of an integral approach of the development on the west side of Suriname and the east side of Guyana…that is why we have asked the Joint Committee to have a close examination and come within four weeks with the final proposal and that will come to our table as Head of State, to take decision,” President Santokhi added.
He further explained that at the end of the meeting with the Working Group, a decision would have to be taken to determine which of the shortlisted companies would be able to execute the new model in lieu of the criteria.
It was noted that the connection of Guyana and Suriname via the bridge will enhance trade and cultural exchanges between the two countries and the rest of South America. The bridge will span the Corentyne River from South Drain, Suriname, to Moleson Creek, Guyana, taking advantage of the most economical and efficient land and maritime routes.
The project is being implemented by the Ministries of Public Works from both countries.
In October 2020, Guyana’s Public Works Minister, Juan Edghill, and his Surinamese counterpart, Dr Riad Nurmohamed, had visited the site of the proposed bridge across the Corentyne River. There were three points of demarcation identified – Moleson Creek, Long Island in the Corentyne River and South Drain in Suriname.
Then in November 2020, Guyana and Suriname signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the construction of the bridge. The MoU was signed by Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Hugh Todd, and his Surinamese counterpart, Albert Ramdin, at the Presidential Palace in Paramaribo.
The Corentyne River Bridge will not only link the two neighbouring countries, but also open up access to greater economic opportunities beyond them into French Guiana, and through the road network being developed into Brazil, and eventually further into South America.
Reports indicate that the Corentyne River Bridge is expected to be a flat bridge from Guyana to Long Island in the Corentyne River and then a high-span bridge from there to the Surinamese mainland to allow for heavy marine traffic. This bridge is expected to promote the safe movement of people and products.
Moreover, it is anticipated that Long Island will become an economic hub and free zone that will also see major infrastructural development such as hotels, recreational parks, entertainment spots, tourist attractions, malls and farmers’ markets.
In relation to the Long Island development, President Ali also said that the study would determine how that is done.
“In terms of the development of Long Island that will be as a determination that the Group will make and whether it comes in the package of the bridge. And as President Santokhi said, we also have to look at the holistic development around the bridge, also what will be happening around the bridge, given our joint strategic approach in terms of the natural resources,” the Guyanese President said.
With the recent commitments to bridge the Corentyne River within five years, this project is expected to open up the pathway for other major developmental projects, including the much-anticipated deep-water harbour project in Guyana.