Essequibo River mishap: Boat was uncertified, not permitted to operate – Edghill

Minister of Public Works Bishop Juan Edghill

Statement issued by Minister of Public Works Juan Edghill:

As Minister of Public Works with responsibility for transportation, I extend my deepest sympathy to the family, friends and loved ones of the two persons who lost their lives in the Essequibo River.

At approximately 19:00 hours on Saturday 17th September 2022, officers from the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) received reports about a boat mishap in the Essequibo River.

We are informed, by our investigation that the small open boat “CARLOS”, under the command of one Jermain Blackman ran into the Rattlesnake Rock in the Essequibo River.  In addition to the captain there were eleven (11) other persons on board, including the bowman.  Most of the persons on board were reportedly not wearing lifejackets, even though it is reported that there were several on board.

According to our investigation thus far, after the Carlos hit the rock, it suffered extensive damage and was sinking, some of the occupants were thrown into the water while others exited the ill-fated boat and tried swimming to the shore.

Most of the occupants were rescued by other boats, but two persons were unaccounted for. Two bodies were reportedly recovered earlier today, 19th September.

Rattlesnake Rock is approximately 2.7 kilometres from the Bartica Stelling and 300 metres east of Calf Island.

While Mr. Blackman is in possession of a valid license to operate such a boat, the boat was uncertified and not permitted to operate on the Parika – Bartica passenger service. Further, boats on this service are not allowed to operate during the hours of darkness.

MARAD’s record reflects that the last authorized departure was by the “LADY ZENIELL” – a boat licensed to operate within the system, at 17:10 hrs. The sunset at Bartica was approximately 18:00 hours.

MARAD has designated 17:00 hours as the latest departure time for boats to depart Parika or Bartica on this service, so as to arrive before dark. The CARLOS reportedly departed from the Parika Stelling at approximately 17:30 hours after MARAD’s monitors would have concluded work for the day.

The issue of unlicensed “outside” boats transporting passengers on our waterways is actively engaging the attention of the Administration. We continue to urge the traveling public not to board water taxis/speedboats operating outside of the regulated system and hours of operation.

MARAD, as the regulatory authority, also wishes to reiterate that all persons using boats/ water taxis must properly and securely wear lifejackets.

Captain Romain Seurattan, River Navigation Officer, is spearheading the investigation and is working along with the Guyana Police Force – Division Seven (7).

Safety on our roads, waterways, and in our airspace must be adhered to.

Service providers must follow the rules and be in full compliance at all times.