Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Passengers dismayed by increased ferry tariff

Say management of ferry services should rather regulate operations of ferries

News of the increment of ferry tariff across The Gambia come May 1st has been received by users with utter disappointment, as ferry crossing at the Banjul-Barra crossing point continues to cause untold hardship to commuters. 

The Gambia Ferry Services Management Company Limited issued a press release on Monday announcing that the tariff for ferry services across the country will be increased by 25 per cent with effect from 1 May 2013.

In this vein, the price of ticket for individual crossing Banjul-Barra, the main crossing point in the country, will be increased from D10 to D12.50 when the new increment takes effect.

“I have not yet heard of the announcement, but if that is the case I will be very surprised,” said Ousman Jaiteh, who spoke to this paper on Monday at the Banjul ferry terminal. 

“Instead of making normal the operations of the ferries and reassuring people, they are increasing the tariff,” he added.

Ferry services at the Banjul-Barra crossing point have continued to be a source of nightmare for commuters in recent time.

For Amadou Marong, safety and security of the passengers crossing the ferry should be the primary concern of the management of the ferry services because as it is now “people are losing confidence” in crossing onboard the ferries (at the Banjul-Barra crossing point).

Samboujang Sonko, who is studying political science at the University of The Gambia, opined that the ferry services made “a grave mistake” when they bought ferries for millions of dalasis that are not pliable in the country since they are never used after about two years they have been bought. 
 
In 2011 the ferry services, through the Gambia Ports Authority, bought two “new” ferries to the tune of €6,345,000 equivalent to more than D250 million.


Since the commissioning of the ferries in July 2011, they are yet to make any commercial trip from Banjul to Barra.

“The ferry services should rectify their own mistake rather than pass it on to the people by increasing the tariff,” the student said.

“The input that they said is one of the main reasons for the increment of the tariff, the last time - like three months ago - I read from the Observer [newspaper] that the Taiwanese Embassy here [in The Gambia] gave a huge amount to The Gambia government to buy new ferries.  Where is that money, because since then we have not seen any new engine for the ferries; in fact the conditions of the ferries since then has continued to deteriorate,” he added.

In December 2012, the Taiwanese Embassy in the country presented a cheque for US$747,692 to The Gambia government for the procurement of three new ferry engines.

Is the Senegalese transport union informed?

The MarketPlace has tried in vain to contact the management of the ferry services to find out whether the Senegalese transport union is informed of the impending ferry tariff increment.

The last time the tariff of ferry services was increased in July 2005, it created a big confusion between The Gambia and Senegal leading to the closure of the Senegalese side of the border by the transport union.

There is a bilateral agreement that whenever The Gambia authorities seek to revise ferry tariff, the Senegalese authorities should be informed. Though the agreement does not give any veto power on tariff increases to the Senegalese, it puts in place institutionalised consultations prior to ferry tariff revision.
Though data on ferry services in The Gambia are scanty, reports have indicated that over half the volume of traffic at the Bambatenda-Yellitenda crossing point involves Senegalese vehicles. 

Also, even at the Banjul-Barra ferry, Senegalese vehicles may account for a thirty to forty per cent of the volume of traffic.
Thus, Senegalese transport operators have vested interests in The Gambia ferry services.  It is a route of strategic importance to the Senegalese transporters, and trade unions in the transport sector.

It took a state visit of President Jammeh to Senegal for discussion with the former Senegalese president, Abdoulaye Wade, in October, to get the trade unions to agree and get the border opened. 

As part of the agreement with the two heads of state, the Gambia authorities agreed to nullify the ferry tariff increase, in recognition and reaffirmation of the previous protocols on the matter. 

However, it was later increased after due consultations with Gambian and Senegalese authorities.

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