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Barrow commissions new ferry

Jun 22, 2017, 10:47 AM | Article By: Cherno Omar Bobb

A new ferry initiated by the government of former President Yahya Jammeh was commissioned by President Adama Barrow on Wednesday in Banjul.

The construction of the ferry, named Kunta Kinteh, was said to have started in October 2016 and it was, earlier this month, delivered by Damen Shipyards Hardinxveld, a Dutch company that built the ferry.

Kunta Kinteh costs 9.3 million euros, including a five-year maintenance deal. It has 718 passenger seats but it can take up to 2,000 people, when it does not carry any vehicle. It takes 27 cars, 4 trucks and it has a 3-flow passenger deck with 5,000 lifesaving jackets.

It will be plying Banjul-Barra crossing point, the biggest and busiest ferry crossing point in The Gambia.

In his launching statement, President Barrow reflected on the overwhelming challenges his campaign team faced when they were crossing to the North Bank Region sometime in November 2016.

“Given that personal experience and more importantly watching at close range the huge number of people making the difficult journey with great risk and discomfort, I made a pledge - a personal commitment to the people of Niumi that when I am elected President, my administration will provide modern facilities and services to them to end the nightmare associated with the Banjul Barra crossing,” he said.

“It is in this regard that my government rapidly provided the necessary support for the timely delivery and inauguration of this modern ferry.” 

The Gambian leader said the commissioning of the new ferry would “surely alleviate” the present state of the poor ferry services, though “it will not adequately provide the required level of service the travelling community deserves”.

“Nonetheless this is rather one of the many steps we will take to address the challenges confronting the commuters using this crossing,” Barrow said.

“My conviction to this commitment is still strong and God willing, my government will not relent until we provide an adequate solution to the problem.”

He noted that the significant contribution of the Banjul-Barra crossing points to the socio-economic development of the country cannot be overemphasized. It is one major linkage between the South and the North Bank and it is greatly utilized by people of all walks of life.

“Unfortunately, improving the facilities and services on this popular crossing point has remained elusive all these years,” President Barrow said. “This has not only significantly slowed down the economic activities both within and outside the country, but also directly affected the livelihood of all Gambians who spent unreasonable hours to get to the other side of the river bank.”

He said this government believes in free movement of goods and services and therefore the transformation and expansion of the port is part of its top priority.

“As we pursue the development agenda for the transformation of our New Gambia into a modern state, we will provide the adequate support required to upgrade and modernise the Banjul Shipyard, which is essential for the maintenance of the ferries and other crafts,” the president affirmed.

Abdoulie Tambedou, managing director of Gambia Ports Authority (GPA), said the commissioning of Kunta Kinteh shows the port’s demonstration and commitment to provide safer and more reliable ferry services to the public.

“The new ferry will go a long way in alleviating the burden capacity constraints being experienced between Barra and Banjul crossing points as well as go a long way in enhancing the capacity of the ports to be able to deliver safe and efficient ferry services for the continuous socio-economic development of the country by providing greater comfort in the services rendered to travellers,” he disclosed.

He announced that a contract has been finalised for the delivery of a new 47 ton boat with improved financial terms with Damen Shipyard.

Mustapha Colley, chairman of GPA Board of Directors, lamented that of late, travelling between Barra and Banjul has been challenging which has impacted negatively to the social and economic activities of the people of the country.

He assured that the board is committed to the development of GPA and will continue to ensure that there is reliable and efficient ferry service at all crossing points across the country.

Peter Post, Damen Shipyard Regional Director for Africa, explained that the ferry was built and designed in close cooperation with GPA, and that they have committed to a 10-year partnership with GPA to train, advise and repair when necessary the new and other ferries.

Minister of Transport, Works and Infrastructure, Bai Lamin Jobe, said in the past there has been a lot of touch down government interference with the management of ferry services which had undermined the capability and capacity of GPA to deliver services to the public.

He said his ministry is resolved to continuous engagement with GPA management to bring major changes in the maritime and river transport sectors.

The minister disclosed that they are in the process of finalising the relevant policies, master plan and portfolio projects to enhance the operations and management of the port.

Photo credit: Muninie Jallow