MARAD to “significantly” reduce piloting time with $535M vessel

…as Pres Ali commits to equipping agency to lead modernisation of local maritime sector

In keeping with efforts to modernise the local maritime sector in order to support Guyana’s growing economy, the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) has received a brand new $535 million pilot boat that will enhance its operations.
The vessel, Pilot Boat Arapaima, was custom-built in France by Ocea Shipbuilding and Industries to meet the needs of MARAD. The contract, which was signed in December 2021, also includes one-year warranty, technical support and training for local officers.

President Dr Irfaan Ali commissioning Pilot Boat Arapaima as MARAD’s Director General Capt. Stephen Thomas as well as Public Work Ministers Juan Edghill and Deodat Indar looks on

According to Director General of MARAD, Captain Stephen Thomas, the arrival of this new ship is the “dawn of a new era of pilotage in Guyana” since these services have been limited by the absence of safe and reliable pilot boats.
These vessels are used to transport marine pilots onboard large vessels that they have to pilot inbound and outbound throughout Guyana’s waterways.
Thomas explained that the Department was in dire need of a new vessel especially since its fleet currently has a 75-year-old vessel; another aged vessel, acquired since early 1980s, that is “slow and unreliable” as well as much newer vessel, acquired in 2018 under the previous APNU/AFC government, that has been plagued with issues since its arrival results in hundreds of millions of dollars being spent to keep it operational.
“We’re now equipped with one of the most modern pilot boats in the world… It’s well suited to operate in constrained and extreme conditions of navigation and maneuverability… and is capable of operating at high speed,” the MARAD head said at the commissioning of the Arapaima on Wednesday afternoon at the Coast Guard Headquarters.
In fact, Public Works Minister Juan Edghill also posited at the ceremony that the 26 knots maximum-speed vessel will significantly enhance the piloting operations of MARAD.
“This vessel will significantly reduce the time it takes for pilots to reach the ships out in the open waters,” the minister stated.
Minister noted that Guyana’s water traffic is increasing rapidly, with some 2,800 ships requiring piloting in 2022 – a figure that has already been surpassed thus far this year. On this note, the Public Works Minister underscored the important role that MARAD plays in the country’s economic development.
“With this increasing amount of maritime traffic and commerce taking place, it is crucial that we have effective systems to ensure that everything is running smoothly and safely… and this is precisely why this vessel was acquired,” Edghill stressed.
Modernising Maritime Sector
Meanwhile, President Dr Irfaan Ali, who was present at Wednesday’s commissioning, pointed to his Government’s commitment towards modernising the local maritime sector to keep up with the rapid growth of the country’s economy.
He noted that this “sizable investment” in Guyana’s maritime administration is in line with the vision for a country equipped with modern navigational systems that meet international standards.
“This commissioning of the vessel is part of my government’s ongoing programme to modernise our navigation systems and improve navigational services on vessels entering our main river port. The acquisition of the Arapaima is a continuation of our efforts to give MARAD a fleet of modern, reliable, fuel-efficient vessels that are capable of serving the needs of the shipping community and facilitating a modern marine sector,” he asserted.
On this note, the Head of State announced plans to acquire additional vessels for MARAD as well as enhance training of personnel. This will complement other initiatives that have been undertaken by government to advance the maritime sector. These include updating the country’s hydro-graphical charts; improving maritime navigational tools and aide – for which over $1 billion has been invested over the past two years; strengthening the capacity of MARAD to manage the sector with some $1.6 billion allocated to acquire new equipment such as a tug; and improving port management.
Additionally, they are also focusing on adopting a strategic rather than reactive approach to the development of the maritime sector with the creation and implementation of a National Maritime Strategy in tandem with a Commonwealth Marine Plan, among other initiatives being put in place.
Moreover, President Ali further outlined that on the security front, Government is looking at using the country’s waterways to widening policing efforts.
“We are also… working to better utilise our riverways as express highways for fast response in terms of crime. As you know, the Demerara River gives us the opportunity to run the entire coast… So, the Guyana Police Force and the national security architecture is looking at utilising the river as our fast lane highway, responding to crime and security threats. So, that’s an additional added value that the maritime sector as a whole will be bringing in the modernisation of Guyana,” the Head of State outlined.
He added, “The modernisation of Guyana’s maritime sector is moving full speed ahead. MARAD is helping to lead this push… [and] implementing our vision of a safe, modern and efficient maritime sector.” (G8)