Passengers to Lungi especially those intending to catch their flight out or those just arriving through the Freetown International Airport have been expressing grave concern over the quality of service provided by the single ferry (MV. Scarcies) which travels to and from Lungi.
“I have missed the greatest opportunity in my life due to late arrival of the ferry at Lungi” said one of the disappointed and disgruntled passengers who spoke to this press under condition of anonymity.
The MV Mahera ferry which was referred to as one of the durable ferries that was secured in Greece and navigated through the high seas from Greece to Sierra Leone was ordered to be grounded by the Minister of Transport and Aviation Hon. Kemoh Sesay for over six months now.
It all started when the government deemed it necessary to privatize the said ferry in October, 2007 with a Russian company ‘SMR Shipping Company’ taking over its management from the Sierra Leone Ports Authority on the promise that, it would be renovated to be sea worthy.
At the time of privatization, the ferry had one engine instead of two engines and one generator instead of two generators, but the Russian company headed by a Mr. Andreas promised to fix up everything before recommencing operations.
According to sources, the Russian company had some constraints in not readily securing the other remaining engine and generator to operate the ferry, and the company was therefore said to have taken the risk to operate the ferry with one engine to raise funds to secure the engine and generator.
That action sources say, was very much to the dissatisfaction of the Minister of Transport and Aviation who in December, 17th 2007 decided to put a halt to its operations, until they fulfill their promise, by augmenting the ferry mechanically to save lives and property.
The ferry which since December, 2007 was anchored at the Queen Elizabeth II Quay in Freetown, was then relocated to Government Wharf where major maintenance including the installation of the required two engines and generators have been done.
The Great Scarcies ferry reportedly spends three hours on a single trip to and from Lungi. The ferry leaks and have only one workable engine.
According to Hassan Bangura a Terminal Officer since the MV Mahera ferry was banned by Kemoh Sesay the Minister of Transport and Aviation all major maintenances have been done to the boat as a brand new Generator have been installed, with navigator lights, adequate life jacket, and ramp for offloading cars.
Bangura who works on the MV Mahera disclosed that the boat, can load over 36 mini vehicles with 450 passengers on board and 50 staff are engaged in the smooth operation of the boat. Since the banning of the boat he lamented they are yet to receive a single penny from Management.
He added that, the National Commission for Privatizations, Ministry of Transport and Aviation, Maritime Administration has sent series of inspection teams and they were certified. It is now left with the Minister to lift the ban. The question of when this might happen could not be answered as efforts to get comments from the Ministry proved futile.
The Manager of the MV Mahera boat is reported to have spent a lot of money in the repair of the boat since the ferry terminal was privatized by the government.
The disappointed passengers are calling on the Minister of Transport and Aviation to immediately lift the ban on the MV Mahera boat to ease the transportation constraints affecting passengers wanting to travel to Lungi.
The ferry terminal where passengers are to wait is currently in bad shape, it was built like the bomb shelter, but to the disappointment of many travelers the structure is very rundown with all the zinc coverings engulfed with rust.
The building itself stinks due to the poor toilet facility, there is not enough ventilation and adequate sitting accommodation inside the terminal. Ticket Sellers are mainly youths dressed haggardly smoking cigarettes arguing about International Football Competition.
The structure is also used as a store and for dwelling purposes by some individuals; some people enter without having tickets while others use the short curt method by bribing the security men at the main entrance to the harbor and Le 1,500.00 paid to be escorted.
Passengers are sometimes forced to hire a speed boat or use the only available wooden boats at an exorbitant fee with 100% risk on navigation.
Visitors and returnees are usually embarrassed with the poor transportation facilities from Lungi to the city, it is hoped that government will amicably improve facilities at the Kissy Ferry Terminal in Freetown.