Many are already pouring praises on the government of President Adama Barrow “for securing a new ferry” for The Gambia.
But the reality is, the ferry, Kunta Kinte was not commissioned by the Barrow administration, it was a project of the government of defeated dictator, Yahya Jammeh.
Many people complain of poor services and delays when crossing between Banjul and Barra in northern Gambia prompting the Jammeh government to commission the procurement of the Kunta Kinte two years ago.
She is expected to be the fastest ferry in Gambia when it starts crossing passengers between the capital, Banjul and the city of Barra, in the country’s northern region of Niumi.
It has seats and has twice a larger capacity that the current fleets being operated by the Gambia Ports Authority, which is facing challenges with its water transportation system.
Poor maintenance has rendered most of the ferries unserviceable, including the Barra and Kanilai. Last year, only one ferry was operation at the seaport.
Many resorts to taking unsafe measures to cross the estuary of the River Gambia. Tens of people join small canoes to cross from the capital, Banjul to Barra, often without life jackets.
A ferry incident in 2014 resulted in the deaths of five people, including a Belgian tourist, while many more were injured, some seriously.
Gambia’s ferries are old, usually overcrowded, and sometimes break down mid-crossing. There had been several warnings about safety standards on board the service.
In 2014, more than D80 million ($2 million) was spent on ferry maintenance and upgrades and stakeholders suggested the privatization of the sector.
River transport is a major source of revenue for the ports authority, which brings in the largest share of the government’s revenue by an agency.
Last year, ports authority officials told a parliamentary oversight body it lost more than D30 million in revenue after borders between The Gambia and Senegal closed, forcing many who travel between southern and northern Senegal to circle around The Gambia.