By Omar Bah
Lamin Jawara, general manager for the Gambia Ferry Services, has announced plans to open a new ferry route between Banjul and Albreda to boost business in the historic settlement.
GM Jawara told The Standard that the planned expansion to Albreda is part of the ferry service’s top-three priorities to improve service delivery.
“We have three top priorities and one of the them is to be able to have new routes on the existing ferry lanes. We are currently working very hard to be able to operate a ferry between Banjul and Albreda,” he said.
He disclosed that a preliminary study has been conducted on the route already and they are currently doing a feasibility study.
“That route has the potential to open up the river and enhance the use of the river but our plan is to first operate a ferry between Banjul and Barra that will be able to transit at Mandinaring and Bonto,” he said, adding that such a route will reduce traffic nightmares people face every day trying to reach their workplaces.
“This route we are anticipating will attract banks and businesses to open up the Hakalang corridor and it will boost the economy of that part of the country. The value of land around the area will also increase and that will give land owners there the opportunity to access money from banks,” he added.
The trained engineer said the Ferry Services is also exploring the South Bank between Kartong and Casamance.
“Discussions are on and at the moment, it’s work in progress and we have estimate for these projects but I don’t want to disclose these now. We are also working very hard to institute the 24-hour ferry service between Banjul and Barra. We have seen this as an opportunity for the ferry services and businesses,” he added.
Jawara said the 24-hour services will address lot of issues such as referral of sick people from Essau health center to Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital in Banjul.
“We have instances where ambulance from Essau health center will go all the way through Farafenni to Banjul because the ferry has closed for the day and that is something we would like to change,” Jawara said.
He said his management is committed to make the ferry service the best in the sub-region. “If any day I came to believe that it’s unattainable, I will resign and go and do something else. The intention is to expand the service and to operate ferries across the subregion but we need time to get there. I want to appeal to the public that the ferries management is not relenting in our drive to ensure that we provide the best of service to the citizens of this country,” he said.
Jawara said when he came to the Gambia Ferry Services as general manager, he found that the office was unable to pay its own salaries and the amount of debt that he found there was colossal.
“We were owing GRA, SSHFC, BCC and our trading partners millions of dalasis and even those who were supplying us fuel. My first priority was to stabilise the company as an entity and take responsibility and be accountable in whatever we do.
“As an immediate measure, we decided to control our expenditure, monitor our revenue generation, stabilise the ferries and start paying our salaries from day one, that is, effective January 2021. I am happy to announce that we have achieved all these targets and sometimes we even pay salaries earlier than even the GPA which was unusual in the history of the ferries because GPA has always been the benchmark,” he noted.
He said GRA even had to drag Ferries to court and received judgment in their favor. “At some point, even the Mayor of Banjul had to call me because we were owing BCC lot of arrears but I am happy to announce that by the end of this month, all arrears due to BCC would have been paid,” he said.
He said the development at the ferries is a welcome news for the GPA who were at some point paying salaries for the ferry services before he took over.
“However, as a new General Manager, I receive lot of support from GPA, especially MD Ousman Jobarteh,” he said.
He said all the ferries except Kunta Kinteh were moving with one engine but now they are all operating with more than one.
GM Jawara admitted that his biggest strength is the cooperation he continues to receive from his hardworking staff. He said the management is putting in place strong measures to frustrate all forms of corruption.