The T&HD Demerara ferry service is a nightmare
Stabroek News
February 8, 2002

Dear Editor,

Several problems bedevil West Demerara commuters who for one reason or the other have a preference to cross the Demerara river via the ailing Vreed en Hoop/Georgetown ferry service which is grudgingly being offered by the Transport and Harbours Department (T&HD). I am forced to say grudgingly, because of the take it or leave it attitude of the employees of this department.

Before I actually list the problems being encountered by these commuters, I must point out that whenever there is the need for repair works to be executed on the Demerara Harbour Bridge, due care and attention is applied to ensure that the ferry service works with two vessels without any hindrance whatsoever. However, no further attention is paid to this much needed service with the result that commuters who depend on it are placed at a grave disadvantage.

According to low level T&HD sources, the reason for the seemingly permanent disruptions of the ferry service is that the (flat bottom pontoon type) ferry cannot moor alongside the Vreed en Hoop Stelling when the tide is low which is what normally happens without any warnings/notices being issued via the media or otherwise. However, commuters believe that this situation is a display of gross disregard and lack of concern by the T&HD.

The following are some of the difficulties being faced by the commuters:

1. Commuters leave their homes in adequate time to use the ferry to get to work on time only to be greeted with the news from a gateman, stage hand or in most instances a fellow commuter, that the ferry is not working. This results in the choice of either of the following alternatives, which are obviously more costly.

(a) cross the river with the ever prevalent speedboat at the risk of falling overboard while embarking/disembarking, getting your clothes soiled with the (in most cases) dirty life jackets and last but not least, subjecting yourself to the vilest of language from the operators who defy all forms of detergents and deodorants.

(b) board a minibus (chariot to hell/heaven whichever one qualifies for) and travel from Vreed en Hoop across the Demerara Harbour Bridge, endure the agonising crawl to Georgetown while stressing out in the thought of what your boss is going to tell you for reporting late for duty again.

2. Old Age pensioners are issued with passes by the Government of Guyana to travel free of cost on T&HD ferries anywhere in this country. These (in most cases) feeble elders turn up to get the ferry with the sincere belief that they have a blessed means of saving on their already inadequate pensions, only to be presented with disappointment and frustration. They are then faced with the above two unattractive choices.

3. Parents of school children pay a reduced fee in buying a monthly pass (contract) with the hope of saving some money apart from relieving their kids of the responsibility of joining the lines to purchase tickets and carrying the extra cash. No consideration (refund perhaps) is given to this lack of providing a service which is paid for in advance in this case. Instead, the children are forced to go around by the bridge or use the speedboats which they may not be financially prepared for. Adults who travel to Georgetown for work have long since aborted the practice of prepaying to use the ferry.

Apart from the above problems and for several months now, the ferry limps its way from Vreed en Hoop to Georgetown on one engine although it is equipped with two. No one knows why, since no official explanation is forthcoming. Something seems to be woefully wrong with the PR policy of the T&HD if this Department has one, as it should.

This writer is cognizant of the efforts of the Government of Guyana to commendably provide reliable government controlled public transportation service at the Essequibo and Berbice Rivers crossings. In like manner and notwithstanding that there are alternative means of crossing the Demerara river, commuters on this route are entitled to equal consideration.

Commuters using the Vreed en Hoop ferry service could be spared the foregoing if the authorities would do the following.

1. Ensure that the approach to, and the immediate, mooring area to the Vreed en Hoop stelling is frequently and properly dredged as is the practice when the Demerara Harbour Bridge is closed for repairs. This could be effectively executed by the T&HD owned vessel "Steve N" on Sundays and after working hours on Mondays thru' Saturdays so as not to obstruct the normal schedule of the ferry.

2. In the case of the ferry being unable to perform to expectation because of engine downtime, the authorities must provide commuters with a pontoon and tug until the normal ferry is restored to its state of acceptable functionality. Though somewhat primitive, this type of service has proven far more effective than the modern (?) ferry which currently facilitates (?) the river crossing.

I would like to emphasise that the intent of this letter is not to criticise the people who are charged with the responsibility for the effectiveness of this ferry service, but to urge them out of a state of self imposed slumber to do what they are supposed to do.

Listen up Minister of Transport and Hydraulics, General Manager and Traffic Manager of T&HD, thousands of West Demerara commuters are fed up, angry, dissatisfied, frustrated, seeing their doctors for high pressure and poorer because of your lack of concern. Do not offer excuses now just get out of your rockers and do what this nation is paying you for now!

Yours faithfully,

V. Persaud