Demerara Harbour Bridge allision: BoI recommends 24-month suspension for pilot

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The BoI released these photographs depicting damages to the Demerara Harbour Bridge and the vessel following the allision

A Board of Inquiry (BoI) into the allision of a vessel into the 54-year-old Demerara Harbour Bridge has recommended that the vessel’s pilot be suspended for 24 months. 

The findings of the BoI, which was chaired by Captain Joseph Lewis, were released by the government on Tuesday. The seven-member Board conducted the inquiry into the October 8 allision from October 10 to 13, during which persons were interviewed. 

“Pilot Kenneth Cort must be suspended for a period of not less than 24 months and only be allowed to return to duty after a process of recertification, assessment of his competency to operate as a pilot by MARAD [Maritime Administration Department],” the BoI said in one of its 21 recommendations. 

According to the BoI, Cort was known to have an “arrogant disposition” and was oftentimes very difficult to communicate with. “This is similarly reported as being the general disposition of the Master of Tradewind Passion, yet no reports nor warnings, disciplinary actions were taken against either party,” the report noted. 

Cort, a Guyanese, who has some 20 years of experience, was tested for drugs and alcohol after the allision; those tests returned negative.  

At the time, the Panama-registered Fuel Vessel– the MT Tradewind Passion—was under the command of Captain Freddy Mendoza. 

Reports stated that at about 2:00h on Saturday, October 8, the vessel which transports fuel for the Guyana Oil Company (GuyOil), while heading south, crashed into the Demerara Harbour Bridge, despite desperate calls to ‘drop anchor’ from the Shift Supervisor Andy Duke.  

Duke, who was in one of the lookout towers, tried desperately to communicate with the pilot without success. He eventually had to jump from the booth in an effort to save his own life. He fractured his leg in the process and was hospitalised.   

The other men who were working at the bottom of the bridge including Mechanical Maintenance engineer Ahmad Khan had to run for their lives. The allision resulted in extensive damages to critical components of the bridge as a consequence of which the bridge was left inoperable for several days. Over US$5M was spent to repair it.

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