President Ernest Bai Koroma just back from the AU summit in Egypt had a taste of the inconvenience passengers travelling in and out of Sierra Leone through the Freetown International airport fell when the only ferry – the MV Great Scarcies suffered engine problems and started drifting.
As the apparently tired President kept his calm the hundreds of other commuters were on the point of outright panic when around 3am they were rescued by an SLPA tug which practically dragged them to safety to the Kissy Terminal Jetty.
One of the commuters who spoke under condition of anonymity said that the ferry which was moving at a snail’s pace apparently developed shaft problem during the shuttle from Targin to Kissy.
During its normal shuttle it had been reported that the ferry takes an unpleasant one hour and thirty minutes to take passengers across the Rokel River, a journey that should last not more than 45 minutes.
As a result of the problem encountered yesterday morning, there was no ferry service to and from Lungi yesterday and most passengers had to use the local canoes. The probability exists that no ferry will be in operations today, as the engineers are still battling to rectify the shaft problem.
Now that President Koroma has had a taste of the suffering of the masses, most commuters are wondering why MV Mahera after it has undergone maintenance as ordered by the supervising agencies, is still grounded.
According to our source, S.M. R. Shipping Limited, who was awarded the contract by the National Commission for Privatization to operate the MV Mahera in October 20th 2007, is still awaiting clearance to start operation after it has undergone maintenance as instructed.
Our source also revealed that the Estonians, who are operating the MV Mahera, were instructed to effect changes on the engine as well as install a new generator for effective services.
This instruction reports say has been followed to the letter, including adding additional life jackets, and changing the fog lights, which also was affected, but yet still they are waiting on the Transport and Communication Ministry to give the necessary clearance.
Speaking over UN radio recently the Transport Minister said that he had ordered the repossession of the MV Mahera ferry from the hitherto contracted operators because they had breached the terms of their contract.
The action by the Ministry has left over 50 workers without salary for seven months now, and with the experience of the President himself we wait to see what will now be done to ease the suffering of commuters and the plight of the over 50 workers of the MV Mahera.
By Samuel John