Sunday, September 29, 2013

Britain warn its citizens against using Gambia ferry

Ferry Banjul 3
Do not use Gambia ferry, United Kingdom tells British (Photo credit: Sinsistema)


The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the FCO, has advised British citizens traveling to The Gambia against using the ferry between Banjul and Barra, a seven mile waterway.

The warning, which is contained in an international travelers guide updated on September 18, came at the back of continuing concerns over safety and security of passengers and poor sea transportation since 2012.

“The ferry has a poor safety record. On a number of occasions recently, the ferry has broken down during the crossing and become stranded without power,” the FCO said. 

“It is often delayed and severely over-crowded. If you do decide to use the ferry exit your vehicle quickly after parking to avoid becoming trapped inside for the duration of the journey and don’t use the ferry after dark,” it warned.

In February, local travellers raised fears over the conditions of the ferries, Barra, Johé, and Kanilai.  “Crossing from Banjul to Barra or Barra to Banjul has now become a nightmare,” Lamin Manneh, a Gambian told The Voice.

“All these ferries are ageing, and they can no longer meet the demands of transportation between Banjul and Barra. I don’t think they are even safe enough,” said Modou Senghore, a high school student.

In 2012, several members of The Gambia’s National Assembly raised concerns over the safety and security of thousands of passengers who use the ferries as a means of transport daily.

An opposition leader who called for the resignation of the management of the Gambia Ports Authority, GPA, operator of the ferries, said the situation is worrisome.

Omar Jallow, leader of the People Progressive Party (PPP) accuses the GPA of “failing Gambians”.
The Banjul - Barra Ferry
The Banjul - Barra Ferry (Photo credit: tim ellis)


Two weeks ago, he told The Voice: “I am very worried about the condition of the ferries; the ferries are presently waiting for disaster to happen - if one ferry can take three to four hours or spend the night out there inside the sea with thousands of passengers.” 

This month, the Government of the United Kingdom, UK, also advised British against using a pirogue (wooden dug-out) to cross the River Gambia. 

Wooden boats operated by local boatmen, mainly from Barra, are the only alternative to the ferry and do attract tourist traffic, however, the FCO said they are “often overloaded and sometimes sink” during the crossing. It’s unlikely they will have life jackets, it added.

The life jackets in wooden boats are limited and are not provided to all boat users, according to The Voice research.   


Written by Modou S. Joof
 
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