By: Bubacarr Gaye
The live of users is seriously endangered at the ‘Kung Biran’ crossing point in Niamina, from where people are connected to various destinations to and from Kaur, in the northern bank of the Central River Region (CRR). Speaking to this reporter in an interview on the 12th of January 2023, Essa Jamanka, said the present situation of this ferry crossing point poses tremendous risk to the lives of users especially business persons who cross to and from Kung Biran on the Niamina side of the Region, to attend weekly markets in Kaur and other areas of the northern bank of the Region, to sell and buy goods in order to earn their livelihoods.
“Every now and then, the ferry will get a mechanical issue in the middle of the river, and this poses as a great risk to the numerous lives that are on board. However, boats are also used as alternatives despite a similar risky challenge they pose for users both physically and financially. However, since the safety of lives are concerned, the ferry is safer to use because the boats are mostly overloaded with double the number of passengers they carry,” Jamanka said.
Mr. Jamanka referred to a history when a boat capsized and killed dozens of people, and warned that if the trend continues, it can be fatal. He said the ferry is old now and urges the government of President Adama Barrow to replace it, because it has been in existence since 1994, when former president Jammeh took over the helms of the country.
“The Gambia Ferry Services should get rid of all the old ferries and replace them with new ones. These ferries are not fit for their purpose now and to continue using them is to put the lives of users at stake. Though their efforts are well acknowledge, we just want to remind them about the issues that currently affect the people of Niamina and other parts of the country, which needs urgent action,” he concludes.
Alagie Jallow, a resident of Niamina Dankunku and regular user of the ferry, also lamented on the state of the ferry and the risky challenges it poses to the community.
“Our women suffer a lot because they regularly use the ferry to transport and market their goods and farm produce. However, the big challenge comes on Thursdays which is a “Lumo” or weekly day in Kaur, when everybody will want to cross to buy and resell their goods,” he explained, and urged the government to help them with a new ferry.
On the contrary, Lamin Jawara, the General Manager of the Gambia Ferry Services, talked about the Niamina ferry recently and said it has gone through rehabilitation, after affirming that the ferry encountered serious breakdown, when part of it submerged in water. Jawara said a team of engineers were sent to rehabilitate the ferry and changed the old plates to restore it to normalcy. He added that plans are afoot to provide this particular crossing point with because the number of people using it has increased, making it necessary to also increase the capacity of the ferry. He however cautioned that this has to come with funding which is not available yet. Mr. Jawara concluded by saying that transportation is synonymous to problems, be it river or road transportation. He however encourages people to be patient with them, as they work towards developing the ferries to better standards in the nearest future.