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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

GM lifts lid on ferries dilemma

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By Omar Bah

In the wake of the latest safety scare when the Kanilai ferry got stuck for hours in Barra on Sunday, the second such incident in recent months, The Standard has reached out to the general manager of the Gambia Ferry Services, Lamin Jawara for answers.

Mr Jawara stated that the vessel involved in the recent incident is about eighteen years old, and its engines are now obsolete, and no longer in the market or any production line. “In fact, we have put out a procurement notice since April to solicit quotations to buy new engines, but we have not had a response from any of the suppliers,” he said.

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GM Jawara said his office has written to the manufacturer of the engines, the company that manufactured the Kanilai ferry, and other partners to get quotations, but these types of engines are out of production. He said replacing the current engines with different types of engines will require a lot of modification, which will include changing the clutch, synthetic, hydraulic, and propulsion systems.

“This is a very expensive project that the ferry service cannot afford because currently, we spend 85% of our revenue on salaries and 15% on servicing of the vessels and their services. It is out of that 15% that we have to buy fuel for the ferries, and each of these ferries uses ten thousand litres per week,” he said.

He added that the ferry landing areas require constant dredging.

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“A few years ago, the GPA had a dredger (Malo), but after some time, that dredger was decommissioned and another one (Samo) was in commission, but for the past few years, Samo has been grounded and could not be fixed so we could not dredge the area. At some point, we were using the NDMA dredgers, but they also have a limit and cannot reach certain areas,” he said.

He said they also pay insurance for the ferries and staff, training costs, spare parts and lubricants, all from the 15%. “So, it is obvious that this 15% cannot do this,” he said.

Jawara said the ferry services have made a significant improvement since he was appointed in 2020.

“We built the revenue from D172 million to D258 million in 2021 and from D258 to D278 million in 2022. And we are projecting D340 million for 2023, which means that the ferry service is not a bad company. What we require is support from the government and GPA,” he said.

He said the ferry service last received a D100 million subvention from the GPA in 2021.

GM Jawara further disclosed that during the implementation of the government salary increment, they had an agreement at the board level that the salary difference due to the increment would be paid by the Gambia Ports Authority.

“But until today, we have not received that money yet, and these are revenues urgently needed to improve the services of the ferries. So, because of that, the management of the ferries has to operate within its limits, and this is why sometimes we cannot order certain equipment from overseas,” he said.

He said when he took over as GM, the salaries at the ferry service were around 55% of the company’s revenue, but following the salary increment, they rose to 85%.

“When I realised it was impossible to operate the ferries with 15% of our revenue, I approached the government, and because of that, the fees were increased, and the ratio came back to 65%, but there was again another salary increment, which raised it to 85% again,” he said.

Jawara said they are working with the government and the GPA to resolve the issue because the current challenges cannot be left in the hands of the ferry service.

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