By Ray Chickrie
Caribbean News Now contributor
GEORGETOWN, Guyana – The European (EU) funded ferry service between neighbouring Guyana and Suriname is again out of service due to lack of maintenance according to reports coming out of Guyana this week. The service was put into place to support people to people relations, trade and tourism between the two countries in 1998 through an EU funded project of € 13.2 million.
The ministry of foreign affairs (MoFA) of Guyana said Wednesday that Guyana would not fund or put into place a replacement of the Canawaima Ferry Service and noted that over the years Guyana supported most of the vessel’s maintenance works.
“Speculation about the government of Guyana taking on the obligation of entirely funding a joint enterprise of this type is erroneous. It is not in keeping with the bilateral agreement signed between the two countries that govern the obligations of both States regarding the operations of the ferry service. That agreement is still functional. There is no onus on Guyana to fund the replacement of the service either temporarily or permanently. The joint company has to ensure that the monies collected by or on behalf of the business are properly directed to defraying the expenses incurred.” a government press release said.
Last week when the Canawaima Ferry Service went down the government of Guyana temporarily put in place a replacement to ferry stranded passengers. Before that, in 2017, the Canawaima Ferry was out of service due to engine failure.
The two countries are separated by the Corentyne River in the East, and there has been talk of bridging the river, but there is no concrete plans to do so yet.
“According to the above-mentioned agreement, the maintenance of the ferry is to be shared equally. This has not occurred. In a bid to reduce the hardships to passengers and businesses using the service and to give the neighbouring state time to meet its obligations, the government of Guyana has been funding most, if not all of the maintenance works on the ferry over the years,” Guyana claimed.
A commentor on Stabroek News writing on the issue said, “A simple economic entity to two-thirds World countries and now a failure in management and diplomacy. What else is left for these folks on both sides to mismanage?”
“It is a joint venture and the financial and other arrangements for defraying operational expenses are outlined in the memorandum of understanding between the government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and the government of the Republic of Suriname on the formation and operation of the joint ferry service between the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and the Republic of Surname (1998),” Guyana said.
“Guyana will request an early meeting of the relevant mechanism in order that the issues affecting the operation of the ferry vessel can be fully ventilated and resolved to the full satisfaction of the parties. It is hoped that the fact that the service has been of mutual benefit to both countries will inform the treatment of the matter,” the government of Guyana said.
On Monday, director of the ministry of the presidency, Joseph Harmon, met with Surinamese ambassador to Guyana, Ebu Jones, to discuss the problem and soon the minister of public infrastructure of Guyana, David Patterson, will meet with his Suriname counterpart to find a way forward.
Meanwhile, on the Suriname side of the border, passengers entering the country from Guyana are still must wait about two hours to clear immigration and customs in soaring tropical heat and humidity there.