Two of the three ferries plying the sea route have not been in working conditions for more than a year. Kanilai, the only ferry in operation has not been in good shape either, occasionally coming to stoppage.
On Thursday, the National Assembly members demanded an explanation from the port authorities over the delay in improving conditions of the ferries, despite the purchase last October of four engines for one of the suspended ferries named Johe.
“The situation at the Banjul-Barra crossing is a concern not only to Niuminkas, but Gambians as a whole,” said Mam Cherno Jallow, NAM for the Upper Niumi district of North Bank Region.
He added: “It is true that the government was trying to get an engine and GPA did inform us about time it would take to fix it. The time they gave us has elapsed. They owe us an explanation. Let them inform the people why they’ve not fixed the problem.”
Buttressing the Upper Niumi NAM’s view was the majority leader and Member for Serekunda East, Fabakary Tombong Jatta, who tasked the National Assembly committee on transport to investigate and follow the issue.
Boom times for canoes
Meanwhile, the poor conditions of the ferries has created boom times for wooden boats as the operators increase the price from D15 to D25 per person for crossing.
“If you stand at riverside and see how these boats carry people, you will feel sorry and sad,” Cherno Jallow informed the assembly. “The boats do overload. Sometimes when you tell the boat operators about it, the response you get is ‘do you know it more than I do?’.”
The Upper Niumi NAM tasked the ports authority to appraise the boats in order to ensure the safety of the commuters who are using the boats en mass.
“The GPA should manage the risk rather than wait for a disaster to occur,” he said. “They [GPA] give them licences, so they should tell us the capacity of the boats. Sometimes the engine of the boats go off in the middle of the river. When you have people who are terrified what’s going to happen ?”
Also contributing, Mr Jatta said the security and safety issue ‘significantly’ primarily rests on the people who use the boats.
“In as much as you want to reach your destination, you want to reach safely,” he said. “Unfortunately, what happens is that if I am inside the boat I would complain that the boat is full. If it’s other way round, I would say it’s not full.”
Sainey Marenah contributed to this story
By Saikou Jammeh]]>