(GuyanaChronicle)THE newly commissioned MV MA Lisha can journey from Region One (Barima-Waini) to Trinidad and Tobago in just 15 hours and other Caribbean countries, opening opportunities for the export of “high-value” agriculture and fish products.
President, Dr. Irfaan Ali, on Sunday, stated that this new vessel, commonly refer
red to as the ‘North West ferry’, is set to have a major impact on the business community in Region One. It will allow for not just faster transport time of their products and produce but will also see a significant reduction in transport costs.
The Head of State made these remarks at the commissioning of the vessel at the Demerara Sugar Terminal at Ramp Road, Georgetown in the presence of visiting Indian Minister of External Affairs, Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and other officials.
The vessel, named after the native Warrau language meaning friendship, will ply the Barima-Waini/Georgetown route. It was built by the Indian company Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Limited and has special features to mitigate challenges faced by travellers.
The vessel has 10×10 containers that can carry a large quantity of produce, reducing the price of goods. The boat can carry 276 passengers, 18 crew members, and 14 sedan-type vehicles along with two trucks.
With these features, President Ali explained that they have already begun preparing for upgrades to the Morawhanna and Kumaka Stellings located in Region One.
The Head-of-State added that as the country transitions to becoming the food capital of the region, one of the greatest hindrances to this reality is its transportation system. He added that the vessel will only take 15 hours from Region One to Trinidad and will create a niche between the two counties.
“Region One alone has the capacity to produce all the cassava, eddoes, sweet potatoes, yams, turmeric, ginger, and cage culture fish that the entire Trinidad and Tobago can utilise,” President Ali said.
He added, “This is an opportunity now to open up new discourse with India on building on this project to the next project – that is the replacement of the fleet here – but, more importantly, making use of this opportunity of trade between Region One, Trinidad, and the rest of CARICOM.”
Having the transportation part of the “link” fixed, the President said that the next step is investing in the processing aspect for export. With the direct flight to the United Kingdom, President Ali added that this will now open up a new market for these products, which are “high value” in demand overseas.
Against this backdrop, the President said that the vessel is not only about transportation but also a macro policy of positioning Guyana as a “mainstay in the regional food market.” He added that MV Kimbia and MV Barima, which service Region One, have incurred a current operating cost of almost $12 million every month. Thus, the new vessel will not only be more fuel-efficient but also cut the travel time in half.
“This vessel has 60 per cent of that cost of the current operating fuel costs. This vessel is estimated to use substantially less fuel than the Kimbia. So, the operating costs of this vessel will also reduce the operating costs for the Transport and Harbour Department. This will improve efficiency and reliability and reduce our cost centre while at the same time bringing a higher level of service to the people of these regions,” Dr. Ali said.
The government has begun prepping upgrades to Morawhanna and Kumaka Stellings where the vessel will dock. Those upgrades are expected to cost approximately $784 million and $1.9 billion, respectively.
Also speaking at the event was Dr. Jaishankar, who emphasised that his country is a committed partner to Guyana’s development.
“Our partnership today extends to a variety of fields from development, co-operation and training to capacity building, health, education.”
The new vessel will have an online booking platform and Wi-Fi services onboard that will cater to the expanding, modernising and improving of ferry services. Additionally, the 70-metre-long beam will have seating as comfortable as business class on an airline, with air conditioning and ample leg room.
This will provide a comfortable and safe travel experience for women, senior citizens, pregnant mothers, and children.
The VIP cabins also provide an opportunity for persons to travel with their cars and SUVs to the Northwest District. The MV MA Lisha has a front-loading/ offloading ramp which can accommodate easy loading and discharging of cargo at ports she will call on. The vessel also has a side-boarding capacity.
A total of 19 navigational, mechanical and auxiliary staff of the Transport and Harbours Department were trained in India during 2022 and earlier this year, to operate the new ferry vessel.