The new “socialist” venture announced by Chavez is…

Coming soon to the Orinoco-Apure axis, the 8100TD

Apurinoco: a social enterprise dedicated to river transport on the Apure and Orinoco rivers.

Beside the clever name, the company will start with brand new hovercrafts. That’s right, hovercrafts.

A source with knowledge of the area indicated that hovercrafts can only navigate without any risk of damage during the rainy season (when water levels are high).

The picture below shows what the hovercraft could face when water levels are low.

The fleet include one BHC AP1-88 and a Griffon 8100TD, both made in Britain. The catch is both ships are made for military purposes, especially the latter model. Also included is a couple of Dutch-made DAMEN Multi Cat 1908, dedicated mostly to cargo transport. Only a total cynic would worry about cost-overruns in what are sure to be pure-as-snow procurement processes, right?

Those kind of ships are very different to those currently used, called bongos and curiaras. For those unfamiliar, this is what a small bongo looks like:

The comandante presidente said that the maiden routes of the new company will be from Caicara del Orinoco (Bolívar State) to San Fernando de Apure. Then another one from San Fernando to Puerto Nutrias (in the middle of Barinas State) and from there to Puerto Santos Luzardo, close to the town of Guasdualito (near the Colombia-Venezuela border).

It’s difficult to say how this could affect the local transportation sector, already struggling with difficulties to obtain fuel. Another question is if Apurinoco will eventually end up as the last Chavista attempt in passengers’ navigation. Last but not least, will Apurinoco be done for real and not just for show like a certain project on the Aragua Valley?

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  1. I thought the big advantage of hovercraft (‘craft’ is both single and plural by the way) was that they can negotiate both water and hard surfaces so, as long as operators are at least as careful as the present boat drivers, that didna oughta be a problem. In regard to the possibilities os such a venture lasting any amount of time, I looked in an official bilingual dictionary for renderings of ‘ ongoing’, ‘durable’, and suchlike ony to find that there is no official term for any one of them. That has to convey some underlying policy feature if only I could put my finger on it.

  2. BUT IS IT FULL OF EELS?! That is the real question. In all seriousness, hovercraft are terrible vehicles for Latin American rivers. The US used hovercrafts in Vietnam for about a year and then found out they sucked because their skirts kept getting punctured on rocks and branches just like the ones featured in the post. There’s already an organic transportation sector providing passenger service so it seems like this is some scam to line someone’s pockets, an electoral year promise that’ll never materialize or both.

  3. The current boat designs on the Orinoco have been tested through time. They will still be running after the hovercrafts are grounded.

    • I believe one crashed in La Yaguara, one was shot down by malandros somewhere like over San Agustin Sur, and, I believe there was a third they gave up on. As for the state-of-the-art high-tech command post installed in the old Radio City theater by Barreto at great expense, to receive the visual images from the mini-blimps keeping watch over the malandros of Caracas to better direct police efforts on the ground, it was abandoned–somewhat like the Bus Caracas, three years overdue, hundreds of percent spent over budget, and clogging up traffic in Caracas.

  4. The Manufacturer of these watercraft ran a test drive with the Venezuelian Navy on the Orinoco a couple of years ago.

    They travelled upriver from SF de atabapo to some remote navy posts and native inhabitant locations. Hovers are the appropiate craft for these rifers and with the propper operator, a safe and reliable meadn to travel across the shallowest waters, and into land with no problem.
    Maintenace of the bellows will take care of the normal wear and damage sufffered in operation.

    The problems will be hence porpper operator and propper maintenance…. not to mention the expected criminal reaction from the traffickers (drugs, fuel, anything), pirates, and other currelty using these rivers…

    More circus if you ask me.


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