#Article (Archive)

Safety first

Nov 23, 2010, 10:21 AM

The past few days have been a very sad moment for not only members of the media fraternity, but also those in the teaching field. A middle-aged man Lamin A. Darboe, editor of the Foroyaa newspaper and also a teacher, lost his life in a sudden but avoidable accident at the Barra ferry terminal.

The pain caused by his untimely death is yet to wear off. And for most people, especially the family who depend entirely on him, the harrowing experience may take a lifetime to get over.

But what is the cause of the accident? The Gambia Ports Authority (GPA), the police, the bereaved family; in fact, the general public, should have this question answered.

The purpose of getting to the bottom of what happened is not to put the blame on anybody or institution; rather, such cathartic knowledge will help in the healing process, especially for close family members, as well as friends and colleagues of the victim.

It will also enable the authorities concerned, such as the GPA, to know what actually happened, so as to take appropriate measures to plug any loopholes in the operations of the ferry services, and prevent a recurrence of this type of accident.

Thus we urge that the investigations be thorough, and a report be issued in the end, and shared with the public.

Meanwhile, information received suggests that the lack of a barrier on this particular ferry, to stop vehicles from plunging into the river may be to blame.

A number of factors could be at play here. Were workers at the terminal at the time of the incident careless? It may also be that not enough safety measures or practices are put in place in the ferry service.

It is in light of this that we once again renew our call for the management of the Gambia Ports Authority to put every feasible safety measure in place in our ferries, so as to give the passengers crossing a reasonable degree of assurance that the ferries they board are perfectly safe.

In fact, it is no coincidence that our call for safety at sea is re-echoed in this very issue of this paper by the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Works, the parent ministry of the Gambia Ports Authority.

The senior government officer, in our story, calls on the GPA and the Gambia Maritime Administration to maintain zero tolerance and a no-compromise attitude with regard to the safety and security of passengers, crew and cargo vessels using Gambian waterways.

This call is indeed pertinent!

The GPA should ensure that the safety of the passengers plying the River Gambia on its ferries on a daily basis is given top priority.

Though the ferries bring in a lot of revenue on a daily basis, the GPA should and must be seen to take immediate steps to put aside any ferry that is no longer safe for use by the travelling public. The overriding consideration should be the safety of the people, not commercial gain.

Though accidents do happen, some accidents could definitely have been avoided if more care had been taken to carry out a rigorous inspection of the ferries, and at the ferry terminals before departure.

As an immediate measure, ferries that are no longer in a good condition should be rested without delay. Any ferry that needs maintenance should be given the immediate attention it deserves.

“Safety is something that happens between your ears, not something you hold in your hands.”

Jeff Cooper