Nearly 185 years after two ships, SS Whitby and SS Hesperus, set sail from Kolkata with Indian workers for Guyana, the GRSE-built ocean-going passenger-cum-cargo ferry MV ‘Ma Lisha’ for the Cooperative Republic of Guyana was delivered and commissioned on April 23 at Georgetown, Guyana.

According to PR Hari, CMD, GRSE, the company can build marine platforms ranging from 5-tonne boats to 24,600-tonne fleet tankers, and from warships to commercial vessels. It aims to meet the anticipated future orders from Guyana, he said.

“For us every shipbuilding project is special, but ‘MA Lisha’ was especially special, for it was from Kolkata, our city where we are based, 185 years back, the two ships SS Whitby and SS Hesperus set sail with Indian workers for Guyana. Over the last 185 years, nearly two centuries, this relationship has further strengthened and with the arrival of MA Lisha here, she will cement this relationship even more,” Hari said in a press statement.

The $12.7-million contract for the ferry was signed between the Transport and Harbour Department (T&HD), Guyana, and GRSE in January 2021. The ferry is 70 metres long and propelled by two diesel engines; it can attain a top speed of 15 knots, making it the largest and fastest ferry to operate in the riverine and coastal parts of the northwest district of Guyana. With a displacement of 1,700 tonnes, the vessel can carry 294 passengers (including a 14-member crew), 14 cars, two trucks, 14 containers and other assorted cargo, the release said.

Long-standing partnership

According to Dr Mohammad Irfan Ali, President, Cooperative Republic of Guyana, GRSE — despite being the lowest bidder — had built the ship with every single feature that the highest bidder had offered. He also acknowledged the company’s contribution in training local technicians in the maintenance and operation of the vessel, and providing medium- and long-term support for the upkeep and operation of the vessel.

In his speech during the commissioning ceremony for the vessel, S Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister of India, said it was noteworthy that despite the challenges of the Covid pandemic, which ensued soon after the agreement for the supply of the ferry was signed, the ferry had been delivered on time.

“On the 12th of January MV MA Lisha was formally flagged off from Kolkata by Cmde Hari and sailed to Chennai and was hoisted on a semi-submersible vessel MV Sunrise to be transported to Guyana. This is a unique feat of loading a fully built ship onto a transport vessel for shipping to Latin America and, for us in India, is in itself a new experience. Now it is important that we look at this ferry and actually consider the larger context, which is that of the long-standing development partnership between India and Guyana. Our cooperation is human centric. It reflects the priorities of the people and the government of Guyana,” Jaishankar said in a press statement issued by GRSE.

He also mentioned that, so far, 640 Guyanese nationals have benefited from India’s technical and economic cooperation programmes, which are designed to enhance skills and capacity building. “I am confident that our ties will continue to grow further. I am happy to note that we are working on a variety of areas which directly benefit the lives of the people and a good example is this ferry,” he added.