Since the Gambia Ports Authority’s (GPA) increment of passenger’s fee of its ferries from D15 to D25, more passengers, who are mostly low income earners, continue to decry and appeal for a reduction. The increase came at a time when one of the two ferries was frequently having breakdowns.
This reporter, on Monday 2 November, 2015, visited the terminal and crossed with the Johe ferry to and from (Banjul to Barra) where he interviewed some concerned passengers on the burning issue.
One Ramatulie Secka, a native of Barra who uses the ferry to cross on daily basis said she is involved in a small scale business, selling textiles and shoes at the Banjul market. She noted that she sometimes find it difficult to realise profit in her business as the high expenditure on transport is always a burden. “I live in the remote area of Barra so I walk for a long distance daily and pay D50 on the ferries every day. How can I make profit with this?” she asked.
Asked if a reason was advanced for the increment, the lady replied in the negative, saying she is not aware of any official notice indicating reasons for that. She finally called on the government to intervene in helping to reduce the fee to where it was.
A young man of age 35, who requested to remain anonymous for job security, said he is a messenger by profession. He said the increment came to him as a surprise as some passengers used to complain of the D15 talk-less of the new fee. He said he sometimes find it extremely difficult as his salary is not enough to cover all his transport bills. “Well, we are coping with it but honestly it is not easy. We have no better option because the boats are more expensive than the ferries even though the boats are sometimes faster,” he said.
A resident of Essau, Modou Musa Sarr, who also uses the ferry services very often, reaffirmed the concerns lodged by other passengers. For him, he said it is not just about the high ticket price but he also pays for his luggage depending on its size. He said this is very challenging for the average Gambian and enjoined the authorities of Ports and the government to help address their concerns. Sarr admits the fact that it is very difficult and expensive to operate and maintain these ferries but was quick to add that a reverse of the decision to increase in fee is necessary.
Fortunately for students, the transportation in the ferries is free of charge. A policy, some students remain grateful about. Ebrima Gassama and Ebrima Njie, both natives of Essau, attending Muslim Senior Secondary School in Banjul, said the ferry services are free for all students and that they are identified by uniforms. Asked the number of minutes the ferries spend to cross from one destination to another, they said it takes about 30 minutes and that the Johe is usually faster than the Kanilai Ferry. They explained that they go to school in the morning shift and noted that sometimes if they missed the first ferry, they usually reach school late.
On the other challenges they face, the students added that when they close from school, they sometimes wait for a long time at the terminal before the officers allow them in as waiting for ferries to arrive and parking vehicles usually takes much time.
Attempts to speak to the GPA on this matter is yet to be successful. Foroyaa will continue its efforts to speak to them and publish their views whenever they do so.