Govt considering calling in Police over DHB accident

…ship pilot failed, ignored calls from own crew to drop anchor

By Jarryl Bryan

An atmosphere of chaos on board the MV Trade Wind Passion preceded its collision into the Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB), as the Master of Ship shouted to the ship’s pilot to drop anchor and the bridge frantically signalled the pilot to stop… all to no avail, as the ship went on to ram into the bridge, causing billions in damages and rendering the bridge inoperable for three days.
In an exclusive interview with this publication, Public Works Minister Juan Edghill explained that after considering all the Board of Inquiry (BoI) has uncovered following a week of investigating the MV Trade Wind Passion’s collision with the bridge, he is contemplating submitting it to the Commissioner of Police for a criminal investigation.

A damaged section of the bridge

“This is an accident that could have been avoided, had they listened to instructions. The investigators went so far, to send the pilot for an eye test, a hearing test, colour (blind) test. It’s part of the report. Because if people telling you something and you’re not responding… what does that suggest?”
Edghill pointed out that not only was the pilot in good health, but persons on and off the ship were giving him instructions that he failed to heed, to avert the collision. Additionally, both the pilot and the ship have gone through the retracted bridge multiple times before while transporting oil, thus ruling out inexperience.
“All the lights and navigational aids at the Harbour Bridge were functional and working. All the other vessels that passed through, said that everything was ok. The Harbour Bridge man calling and telling you to stop, you’re out of alignment. You’re not responding,” Edghill further related.
“The master of the ship, which is the foreign captain, gave us a statement that he told the pilot to drop anchor and he wasn’t following instructions. He could hear, he could see… he has gone through the bridge hundreds of times… it’s not a first-time voyage for either him or the ship.”
So far, the ongoing repairs to the DHB following the collision have already racked up a bill of over $1 billion… money that Edghill has already made clear that the company which owns the vessel will be held financially liable for, to pay for the extensive works being carried out.
According to the Minister on Thursday, they have already done all the necessary legal paperwork. The ship is meanwhile legally under arrest, because the State has filed all the necessary paperwork.
During the retraction for marine traffic in the wee hours of October 8, the fuel ship, which was transporting fuel to the Guyana Oil Company (GuyOil), crashed into the bridge. The damage to the critical structure was extensive with at least four spans and a pontoon affected.
At the time, the vessel was heading south and was the last of five vessels to cross through the bridge, which had to be out of commission over the weekend and opened on Monday to light vehicular traffic. A scheduled arrangement was subsequently put in place for vehicles carrying less than 18 tonnes as works continue on the bridge.
Following the accident, local authorities conducted drug and alcohol tests on the boat’s pilot and the results were negative. Reports that the crew was sleeping at the time of the accident had also been debunked.

24 months’ suspension
In the meantime, the Panamanian fuel ship remains in Port Georgetown pending the outcome of the investigation and the completion of repairs to the bridge. It is meanwhile known that the Board of Inquiry has recommended in its report that the river pilot’s licence be suspended for 24 months.
The River Pilot, Kenneth Cort, who has over two decades of experience, is among six Guyanese who are contracted, through an association, to navigate vessels traversing local channels.