2013 Projected to be a watershed year for Guyana’s Shipping Association

PDFPrintE-mail

The Shipping Association of Guyana (SAG) is determined to make 2013 a watershed year that brings to fruition the wide-ranging programmes that were conceived and germinated in the past two years.  The upgrade and modernization of the Demerara Port in Georgetown, the main hub of Guyana’s international trading activities, will continue to take center stage.

The strategies for the port’s enhancement was stepped up considerably in 2011, and in the last quarter, the Public/Private Sector Partnership body which had been established earlier that year, went into high gear to define the ways and means of funding and executing the Port Development programme.  Newly elected Chairman of the SAG, Desmond Sears, stated that the project will be completed in phases over the short to long term.

“Guyana must be made ready to meet the stringent demands of shippers all around the world for more modern port facilities and efficient operations,” he stated, noting that when an international port is not as equipped as it should be, the inefficiencies affect not only the shippers and private berth operators, but they trickle down in higher prices to end users of imported and exported goods.

The well ventilated issue of deepening the navigational channel to optimum draught remains priority number one ahead of enhanced pilotage services and vessels.  Installation of new navigational aids and assets (including a new fire boat) and advanced technological equipment are equally critical components of the Port Development programme.

The SAG’s proposal to set up a Demurrage Company to facilitate the efficiency of the several terminal owners along the Port remains on the agenda.  Preliminary negotiations and consultations that began some two years ago to assess the feasibility and achieve buy-in are expected to move forward in 2013.  The SAG executive has already determined that such a facilitywould enable the Association to provide a necessary service to its members and the wider maritime community including small scale shipping agents, transportation logistics operators and boat owners.The Demurrage company will ‘level the playing field locally’, according to the SAG Secretariat, and create an efficient, computerized tracking system inland.

In tandem with these demands are proposals for intensified training and skill development at the intermediary and tertiary levels.  The programmes proposed are expected to turn out more efficient marine related skills for operation, maintenance and protection of navigational and operational equipment in the channel and berths.  Preliminary discussions have been conducted with the Education Ministry in Guyana to encourage the inclusion of maritime related subjects in the curricula of secondary and vocational training institutes in Guyana.  SAG intends to continue discussions in 2013 with the Caribbean Maritime Institute for collaboration and technical assistance to resuscitate the Maritime Transportation and Transport Logistics diploma and degree level programmes at the University of Guyana.

In the meantime, the pace of information collation of skill needs at all levels in the industry is set to step up next year.  Terminal owners and most medium- to large-scale marine operators were, in Q4 2012, in the process of completing questionnaires for submission to the SAG.  The information contained in the questionnaires will be collated for the requisite Needs Analysis which will itself shape the training programmes.

Maritime Security is one more critical component of the SAG’s 2013 Agenda.  This issue advanced to the level of the Ministry of Home Affairs in 2012while the Association continued to advocate for the resuscitation of the Maritime Security Committee and the Port Policing body.  This need has in no way diminished and the Association intends to characterize the new year with stronger advocacy for visible and effective protection of vessels, goods and equipment in Port.   
The Association’s membership drive will also intensify in 2013 propelled by its determination to dispel the erroneous perception that its work is designed mostly for the large-scaleterminal owners and shipping agents.  The drive will focus to a large extent on traders, boat operators and owners of small ports in Berbice and the rural and riverain communities along the Atlantic Coast and the inland rivers and tributaries.

The performance of the maritime industry in Guyana continued to be challenged by the need for higher levels of efficiency across the board.  This is one of the main motivating factors for the SAG’s “outreach programme” set for the beginning of 2013.  Already there has been improved collaboration with organizations in the public and private sectors, especially with the Guyana Revenue Authority’s Customs Administration Department (CAD).  Most business support organizations across the business spectrum in Guyana have joined the concerted call on the CAD to implement the fully computerized Single Window Automated Processing System (SWAPS).  Much time and money have in the past been expended by importers and exporters as a result of the delays posed by the partly manual system in use.

The clamour for the implementation of SWAPS to speed up shipping and clearance transactions will become louder in 2013.  The increased efforts of the SAG to bolster the instruments and institutions that impact operators in the industry will be influenced for the most part by the incontrovertible realities of being left behind as the rest of the commercial world from South America and the Caribbean outward to the far reaches of Eastern Asia, advances with new high tech equipment and facilities.  
The Working Group of the Public/Private Sector Partnership that includes several governmental agencies, the Maritime Administration Department, shipping operators, entrepreneurs and legal minds, is expected to draw up blue prints and attract funding not only for Port modernization, but for its sustenance and continued collaboration with the owners of other ports, including the Deep Water Harbour now under construction in the Berbice county.