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‘GPA will not compromise safety of people’

Feb 11, 2015, 10:15 AM | Article By: Abdoulie Nyockeh

The deputy Managing Director of Gambia Ports Authority, GPA, Ousman Jobarteh, and Shipyard manager Halifa Bah, have said GPA’sfirst priority is safety of the people as they would not under any circumstances compromise the protection of lives and property at the ferry crossingpoints.

They made these statements in a recent interview granted The Point newspaper at their offices in Banjul, on the rehabilitation of the Kanilai Ferry, which was subjected to repairs.

Mr Jobarteh said the Kanilai ferry was repaired using the technology called roller cushion, at the shipyard, which was successfully done with the assistance of their partners from China.

The Kanilai ferry has been rehabilitated successfully, he said, adding that they have a commissioning engineering man coming from Germany, who is expected to arrive in The Gambia any time now.

If the man comes, he said, it would take about six weeks for the new engine to be mounted together with the technology and electrical system.

This would greatly help the ferry to come back to its system when commissioned, he added.

“We hope that in the coming six weeks, the travelling public will benefit by way of improved services at the ferry terminal to complement the Johe ferry services. So we expect that by mid this year the services along the Banjul-Barra route will have improved,” Jobarteh said.

Mr Jobarteh said the GPA spent about six million euros on repairing the Kanilai ferry, as the total cost involved the procurement of air balloon technology, as well as the expatriate fees.

He said it also involved the resources that were bought, such as materials including welding machine, steel plates, and marine plates among other huge materials, for the rehabilitation, which increased the cost of the new engines for both the Johe and Kanilai ferries.

Having repaired the Johe and Kanilai ferries, he said, the other ferries at Trans-Gambia would also be withdrawn, and subjected to the same repair and re-engineering work.

Mr Jobarteh said the Banjul-Barra ferry crossing point is very important, because about 586,050 passengers used the route last year, while the number of vehicles was 28,113.

“This is also one of the main gateways linking the South-Bank and North Bank, so it is a very important crossing point,” Mr Jobarteh added.

Improved ferry service

The GPA deputy MD said they would continue to keep the ferry service up to standard to ensure the safety of people, adding that they are hopeful that if Kanilai is successfully launched back into service, coupled with the services offered by Johe ferry, they would have an improved service along the Banjul-Barra crossing point.

“We are hopeful that we will get the same services in other crossing points along the River Gambia, particularly Trans-Gambia,” he said.

Their next project this year is to rehabilitate the ferries at Trans-Gambia, as the GPA is doing everything possible to provide optimal service to their esteemed customers, Mr Jobarteh said.

He also said whenever they have limited services, they would advise their customers, particularly heavy goods vehicles, to utilize the Trans-Gambia road.

The capacity of the Kanilai ferry could accommodate only four big trucks, ten small vehicles, and six hundred passengers.

“We are just encouraging our esteemed customers to be patient with the Gambia Ports Authority, because we are committed to ensuring that investment continues to be made for the continued operations and maintenance of ferry services, so that we can provide vital services to our customers,” he further stated.

“Safety is high on our agenda, looking around the terminal. There is a lot of awareness campaign going on in terms of safety. We don’t compromise on safety in the sense that a lot of sensitization is done, as public notices are issued and we use a PA system at the terminal just to advise the public on how to manage and control passengers boarding and disembarking from the ferry, which is a daily routine,” he added.

Record achievements with limited capacity

Mr Jobarteh also cited some other challenges the GPA is faced with, such as a lack of adequate capacity in terms of land area to handle the increasing number of containers.

However, he said, they were able to make big achievements last year, as the Banjul seaport was able to handle two million metric tonnes of cargo, which is a record in the history of GPA.

“We have reached the one hundred thousand container mark; and there is rule of tonnage in shipping that if you reach one hundred thousand, it calls for investment in capacity; and our main challenge is to acquire more property at Half-die to extend the port,” he said.

Their priority is to continue investing in the ongoing project to expand the port, so the port could handle more cargo, as the Authority continues to invest in human resource development.

2015 plans

Asked about the plans for 2015, Mr Jobarteh said a lot of changes are taking place at the seaport; that even in terms of the physical environment there are a lot of ongoing development projects.

He disclosed that the former Half-die properties have been acquired, and construction of a new Container Terminal is in progress; so they hope that in the next six months, they would have 18000 square meters of a new Container Terminal.

They are also in the process of launching tenders for the procurement of cargo handing equipment ; so with the equipment and space available they would be able to improve productivity in the port, he said.

These are all changes that are going to be captured in their new strategic plan, he said, adding that their next plan would cover three to five years to take the services they provide a notch higher.