By Mustapha Jallow
Stream of passengers crossing over the Banjul-Barra sea crossing have decried the safety of small boats which carries them over a 7-mile waters instead of rugged ferries these days.
Wooden boats measuring up to 5 meters in length used to be most unpopular form of sea crossing in these waters. This is mainly due to their size and little observance of safety standards.
However, today, due to the unstable engine and other mechanical problems of the two main ferries at the crossing points, passengers are left with no choice but to use the boast if they are to make it to their destinations on time.
Ferry with passengers spent night at sea
Last Friday, the KANILAI ferry full of passengers, vehicles and goods spent hours on end just to cross over from Barra to Banjul. “The KANILAI ferry spent the whole Friday night with passengers on board as a result of an engine failure,” a passenger told Gambia Beat.
Sometimes, the two ferries are non-operational for a whole day or two. This makes passengers to spend more time at the ferry terminal waiting for the arrival of any one of two operating ferries. Passengers are now resorting to the boats at the detriment of their safety, said Sireh Bah, a petty trader from Barra.
Risks, passengers on shoulders of young men
Crossing over these ferries, passengers are carried on the shoulders of strong, young men for a fee of D5, in order to avoid getting wet in the shallow waters. They are carried a few meters to anchored boast.
“A boat will take an overage of 75 to 90 passengers, plus goods and luggage. They sometimes make it through turbulent waves. It’s awesome,” said Sireh.
Mamoudou Gaye, a passenger crossing over the point said although it is risky to cross by boat, they have no option because of the poor ferry services. Gaye, who says he frequents Banjul- Barra crossing at least twice each week, adds that they sometimes wait for a ferry from morning to evening just for a single service.
He said the ferry condition is driving fees for bot crossing to D15 from D5.
Timeliness of boat service
“We are using the boats because we want to reach home early,” said Adama Joof. She laments that one of the main problems with using the boats is that one have to be carried by some youths on their shoulders to board and he boats. She described it as which is callous. “You still have to par for that, along with the crossing costs” she said.
‘Boats are licensed, safety observed’
A boat captain, Mamudou Saine asserted that all their boats are licensed and that they are of different capacities. He said some of them are carrying 80 passengers while others are carrying 95 passengers.
Saine explained that navy personnel are stationed at the crossing to ensure that boats don’t carry beyond their capacities, or passengers don’t cross without life-jackets. He noted that the navy is at the crossing points to monitor them in terms of the capacity they load, the situation of the weather and the usage of live jackets.