Monday, August 26, 2013

Unsafe at any speed

They are referred to as 'floating coffins' for a reason. There is enough evidence, in the past year alone, to warrant grounding ALL the ferries that ply the Banjul - Barra route.  The latest incident which occurred over the weekend resulting in the suspension of all services on Saturday because of the "Kanilai" gearbox problem that developed which led to the ferry being stranded for over 12 hours at sea.

The safety issues are three fold: (i) structural and (ii) mechanical  integrity of these ferries have come under scrutiny on numerous occasions and (iii) the lack of basic but important amenities onboard like life jackets and toilet facilities for the safety and convenience of passengers.  

The hulls of these ferries are so corroded that the engine rooms tread water requiring water to be pumped out regularly.  Mechanical failures like steering issues, this time the gearbox was the problem, constantly plague these ferries. We must also remember that cows, sheep, goats and chickens also share these ferries with humans along the 7 nautical miles journey that now takes anywhere from 4 hours to 24 hours.  

If you add a dozen of vehicles of all shapes and sizes, including trucks heavily ladened with asphalt and other building materials, you begin to appreciate the death traps that these ferries have become, adding to the horrors passengers face daily.  

A once pleasurable 30-minute journey has now turned into a dreaded nightmarish inevitability that Gambians and non-Gambians alike have been condemned by a glaringly incompetent and corrupt government. 

Whenever the Gambia Ports Authority is confronted with these horror stories that passengers encounter, management quickly issues a press release through the Daily Observer designed to sooth the anxiety of a nation drowning in corruption. 

We do not blame the GPA as much as we blame Yaya Jammeh and his callous regime that seems to be governing by administrative fiats, press releases and photo ops instead of rolling up their sleeves and doing the hard work.  Since they have demonstrated their incapacity to govern, the only thing left is for them to throw in the towel and move over for serious folks to do what it takes to get The Gambia back on track. Just like the "Kanilai", this nation is drifting haplessly into the unknown.  It is time to reverse course.