GEORGETOWN – More than five days after halting it for critical maintenance, the Demerara Harbour Bridge was unable to restart its scheduled retraction yesterday to allow vessels to transit.
The retractions have been delayed further until Thursday morning, as repairs and testing continue on a faulty hydraulic winch. The winch is one of four large ones that are critical to the retractions.
In all of the almost 40 years of the bridge’s life, it has never really encountered a problem like this.
The emphasis now, according to the bridge’s management, will be to allow as many vessels to pass through the bridge tomorrow morning at 03:30h and at another opening later in the day at 14:30h.
It will take a lot of work. The two openings will continue on Friday to reduce the backlog of vessels waiting to transit, General Manager of the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation, Rawlston Adams, said yesterday. But that all depends on the successful repairs to the hydraulic winch.
Currently, several ships of oil for the terminals and other supplies for the bauxite industry are waiting for the retraction to restart.
Worried representatives of SOL, Rubis, the Guyana Oil Company, and Bosai Bauxite, as well as several other companies affected, were at the emergency meeting yesterday at the Peter’s Hall, East Bank Demerara office of the Harbour Bridge Corporation.
Briefing them on the situation, Adams said that the problems started after workers of the bridge over the weekend attempted to reconnect the winches on a new pontoon which was fixed on the retractor span area. The pontoon was the second to be installed since June as part of some critical works being carried on the structure.
On Sunday, while tests were being carried out, engineers found that one of the four main winches which retract the span that creates the opening that vessels have to transit through, was not working. It was removed Monday and taken to Infab, a repair shop on the East Coast Demerara.
Engineers and bridge officials worked into the night and discovered that a suspected fault on the gear box was non-existent. Rather, the problem was with the shaft. The parts were worn and were not holding the required pressure.
As of yesterday, work was being done to repair or “machine” the affected part.
The situation will force the bridge’s management to rethink its maintenance strategies, which may include more stocking of parts and more checks, including on those winches.
According to Adams, scheduling maintenance is not straightforward and includes coordination on tide times, with considerations of the least impact on commuters and river traffic.
In the case of the winches, while three of the four could have worked, it could have resulted in the retractor span being left open, an unthinkable situation.
Meanwhile, GuyOil said it has fuel to last until Friday, while Rubis and Sol are expecting supplies over the weekend. Bosai has a vessel that comes once monthly anchored, waiting to transit to Linden.
The bridge is almost 40 years and has to handle the almost 10,000 vehicles that cross daily.
With a new bridge planned between Houston and Versailles, a few miles away, Guyana is praying that the Demerara Harbour Bridge stands up for the next three or four years, at least.