By Makutu Manneh
The Gambia Navy has increased its personnel at the Banjul and Barra canoe crossing points due to heavy traffic, the Gambia Armed Forces spokesperson, Major Lamin K. Sanyang, told Foroyaa on Monday.
Major Sanyang said the reason for the increase in personnel at the crossing points is as a result of the surge in passengers plying the crossing points, which is more than the canoes available to transport passengers.
“There has been an increase in the number of passengers that are crossing and as a temporarily measure, the navy commander has increased his personnel,” he said.
Major Sanyang said travellers are complying for now and they are yet to receive any complaint from them on the Navy’s operations at the river.
He said the only complaint he heard travellers made were on the expensive fares charged by the canoe owners.
The Major made it clear that the fare issue is not under their domain, saying the navy’s task is to facilitate the smooth traveling of passengers and the transportation of their properties on board the canoes across Banjul and Barra River.
He said the Navy also enforces the Gambia Maritime’s administration and regulations, as well as making sure the passengers wear life jackets for their safety.
“They also make sure that the names and details of passengers boarding and disembarking from the canoes are taken,” he said.
Major Sanyang said this is to ensure they account for every passenger and canoe that crosses the river, especially in case of emergency.
Part of the navy’s function at the two crossing points is to ensure the boats maintain their capacity and are not overcrowded, as well as making sure the cargos and passengers are not placed together, Sanyang indicated.
Major Sanyang said since they started operation, they have been able to evacuate, at least, a patient per day from Barra terminal to Banjul for treatment at the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital (EFSTH).
The Army spokesperson advised passengers to have patience, support and collaborate with the Navy, while hoping the two landers are completed within a month as indicated by the ferry service.
He said the police and immigration personnel are also stationed at the crossing points.
Abdoulie Njie, a student of Muslim High who lives at Barra, said since the ferry stopped operation, going to school has been a challenge for him. He said canoe operators sometimes refuse to carry students because they do not pay fares.
“It is the Navy that normally assists us to cross. The only payment we do is to the people who carry us over their shoulders which means any day we are going to school we spend D40 on the crossing,” he said
Mustapha Faal, one of the travelers, said travelling across the river through canoes is not safe. He hoped the landers are fixed soon so that things can return back to normalcy.