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About the Demerara Harbour Bridge



Fast Facts

Opened: 2 July 1978

Length: 1851 meters (1.15 miles)

Type: Floating, with 61 spans, including a retractor span for the passage of large ships.

Vertical clearance for small vessels: 7.9 metres

Horizontal clearance for large ships (retractor span): 77.4 metres

Maximum Motor Vehicle Tonnage: 34.5 Metric Tonnes (Special Permission Required from DHBC)


Thirty Three Years and Counting

The construction of a bridge across the Demerara River in the vicinity of Georgetown was discussed for a long time, culminating in a motion tabled in the Legislative Council of British Guiana in the early 1950’s to construct such a bridge.

Parsons, Brinckerhoff, Quade and Douglas (PBQD) of USA, included a prefeasibility study of constructing a bridge across the mouth of the Demerar River, in a study of the road approaches to Georgetown in 1970, but submitted to the Government of Guyana (GOG) after the Delcanda study. The PBQD study stated that a pontoon bridge with retractor spans was not feasible .

Attention to bridging the mouth of the Demerara River was resumed in 1975 when a two week training programme in the use of Acrow Panel Bridge (APB) and Uniflote (UF) components in the construction of bridges was held at Camp Ayanganna in Georgetown. APB was a civilian development of the Bailey Bridge which was produced by the UK Government during World War II for military transportation purposes. It was attended by engineers from the Roads Division, Ministry of Works and Transport (MWT), Hydraulics Division, Ministry of Agriculture and the Guyana Defence Force. The training programme was conducted by the Thos. Storey (Engineers) Ltd. (TSEL), who had supplied APB components to the Hydraulics Division.

Aerial Images Sept 2012
During the programme a day of lectures was devoted to the construction of floating bridges using APB and UF components. At the end of that day of lectures the question was raised as to whether APB and UF components could be used to construct a floating bridge across the Demerara River in the vicinity of Georgetown. Using the APB handbook and prices of the APB and UF the bridge was designed by the class and its cost determined approximately.

However, the TSEL Managing Director followed up the exercise by obtaining the relevant technical information about the Demerara River in the vicinity of Georgetown, and submitted a proposal to the Government of Guyana (GOG) later in 1975 to construct a two lane floating bridge carrying AASHTO HS20 traffic between Georgetown and Versailles with two retracting spans across the shipping channel. The project would be financed by a commercial medium term loan from a finance house in London to the GOG. To assure the GOG about the technical soundness of its proposal, TSEL hosted a visit to its London head office and its Manchester works by Mr. Joseph Holder, Specialist Engineer Structures, Roads Division. Mr. Holder observed the fabrication of APB and UF components and their use in the construction of floating docks at various places in England and the Channel Isles, and discussed the design and functioning of the retractor spans with the engineer who was designing them. However, Mr. Holder was unable to observe any floating bridges in England, since there were none in existence.

Mr. Holder advised the GOG on his return from England that the APB and UF components could be used successfully for constructing a bridge across the Demerara River.

A contract was signed between the GOG and TSEL on 26 May 1976 for the supply of APB and UF components to construct a floating bridge between Peter’s Hall and Meer Zorgen.

The floating bridge was designed by TSEL, while the abutments, toll plaza and western approach road were designed by Structures Section, Roads Division, MWT. Fabrication of components started in England immediately after the signing of the contract. The retractor spans were assembled at a dock in London and tested before transportation to Guyana. Construction of the bridge at Peter’s Hall started on 29 May 1976.

Mr. Holder was appointed Project Manager for the construction of the bridge in March 1976. A number of engineers who had graduated recently from the University of Guyana were seconded from the Roads Division to Guybridge. Among these engineers were Messrs. Hamlet Hope, Winston December, Lloyd Alli, Rickford Lowe, Baburam Singh and Paul Henderson.

Two outstanding supervisors were transferred to Guybridge from other projects and appointed to promotional posts of Senior Superintendent. These were Messrs. Slacks Robinson and Cecil Roberts.

TSEL provided an engineer who advised on the assembly of the bridge components. This person was Mr. John Elliot, who came from England and functioned as Technical Adviser to Mr. Holder.

The bridge components were assembled to form trusses on land at the construction site, while the uniflotes were assembled to form pontoons in the river alongside the bank at the same site. Two trusses were then connected together with transoms and sway braces and then placed on two pontoons to form a floating bridge span. Parallel with this the abutments were constructed at each end of the bridge by driving greenheart piles into the ground and casting reinforced concrete pile caps on them. The first span of the bridge was constructed as described above and then towed by a river tug from the construction location to the location on the bridge. One end was placed on the abutment, while the other end was anchored to the river bed. Successive floating spans were towed from construction location to bridge location and connected to the spans already placed in position on the bridge. The construction of the bridge proceeded simultaneously from both ends with the two retractor spans being the last to be positioned on the bridge.

A significant feature of the construction of the bridge was the fact that the workforce was comprised entirely of employees (mostly temporary) of MWT

The bridge was declared open to traffic on 2 July 1978 at a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Forbes Burnham.

The toll station was incomplete at the time and it was announced that passage across the bridge would be free for the first month, during which the toll station would be completed. There was a public competition for the naming of the bridge and the name “Demerara Harbour Bridge” was chosen from the entries submitted.

The bridge is a 1851 meters (1.15 miles) long floating toll bridge consists of a pedestrian foot walk, with 61 spans, a raised section that provides a horizontal clearance of 32.0 metres and a vertical clearance of 7.9 metres to allow small vessels to pass at all times and two retractor spans retract fully to leave a horizontal clearance of 77.4 metres to allow large vessels to pass.


Peter's Hall, EBD, Guyana
tel. +592 233 7007/ 8/ 10 . fax +592 233 7009