Leader of A Partnership for National Unity [APNU] David Granger tabled a motion, calling for a commission of inquiry [COI] into maritime and riverain incidents, which have occurred since January 1, 1999.
Given the fact that the parliamentary opposition has a one seat majority in the National Assembly, the motion was passed, but without the support of the government’s side.
Mr. Granger told the House last evening that the aim of the motion is not to condemn or castigate anyone or the Public Works Ministry under which MARAD falls.
The motion calls on President Donald Ramotar, in accordance with the Commission of Inquiry Act, to appoint a COI to inquire into maritime and riverain incidents which have occurred since January 1, 1999 to determine the extent of such incidents and to make recommendations for safe travel and the protection of life on the country’s waterways and coastal waters.
APNU member Winston Felix said that the establishment of the COI will bring closure to the deaths that have occurred on Guyana’s waterways while at the same time chart the way forward on how to make river travel safer.
He opined that a board could be set up, which would be responsible for the drafting of policies for MARAD and also called for more joint operations between the police and ranks of the Guyana Fire Service.
In registering his support for the Motion, AFC Leader, Khemraj Ramjattan said that his Party will support any motion which is going to support safe travel whether on land, air or water.
In response, Minister of Public Works Robeson Benn said that government is committed to improving the local maritime sector and has launched several initiatives with the aim of improving safety throughout the nation’s waterways.
Minister Benn outlined several of the measures being taken by the local maritime administration, which includes the provision of 1,000 life vests/ jackets to schools within riverain communities, with 200 already being handed over, the contracting of a public relations firm to conduct recurrent training for boat operators on safety and operational issues, training of riverain pilots, certification of sailors and other boat operators and the establishment of a benevolent fund to assist victims of river and sea-going mishaps.
Minister Benn also informed the House that quarterly reviews are being conducted and monitoring increased with assistance from MARAD. The latter is set to benefit in the near future from the acquisition of five patrol boats which will increase their capability, he added.
The establishment of a Maritime Rescue and Coordination Center, staffed with the relevant personnel and based at Stabroek, is now operational and functions whenever a maritime accident occurs, Minister Benn added.
He also outlined the assistance given locally and internationally to Guyanese seafarers, when the need occurs. The call was made by the minister for his shadow counterpart, to work with him to improve safety and improve the water transport system, as “Every life lost is one too many”.