Modern passenger launches could be a solution Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
August 20, 2002

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THE public ferry service being provided by the Transport & Harbours Department is a valuable service and the workers who man the vessels across the many rivers of Guyana, but especially the Essequibo and Berbice rivers, must be commended for the dedicated and yeoman operations they provide to commuters.

However, over the years, with increased traffic and cargo and the number of vessels basically remaining the same, using the service has become tiring and tedious.

This situation gave birth to the speedboat business, which in one way is a good development because it has provided employment for a large number of people, and it provides a speedier but risky service.

There have been several commuter speedboat tragedies in which many lives have been lost.

In addition, travelling by speedboat is a very costly affair.

A family of five going by speedboat from the Essequibo coast to Parika would have to pay a total fare of $3,000 - one way.

If they decide to take the ferry, it would be much cheaper but they would have to wake up by midnight the night before, and then endure about five to six hours of tedious travelling.

In the Berbice River it is a bit better because the distance is short, but it is still a tedious affair.

In Demerara commuters are subjected to a poor and unreliable service.

Many times commuters turn up at the stellings - Georgetown or Vreed-en-Hoop - only to be told that the tide is too low so the ferry boat cannot be operated, and hundreds of students and workers who normally purchase a monthly contract ticket face endless delays.

In order to get to school and work on time they have to fork out additional money to go by speedboat or by mini-bus by road and across the Demerara Harbour Bridge to Georgetown or Vreed-en-Hoop.

Of course there is no refund for the contract ticket which was paid for up front.

The building of modern passenger launches could be a solution to this suffering by commuters.

These boats could be operated on a shuttle system at peak periods and on a designated schedule during non-peak hours.

It does not make sense to have hundreds of commuters without vehicles having to wait until vehicles are loaded on to and unloaded from the large ferry boats before they travel.

With a launch operation, those commuters will have a much speedier service, and be much safer and comfortable than in the case of the speedboat.

This will contribute to greater efficiency and at the same time ease the strain on the ferry boats through reduced loads.

In addition, the maintenance and operational costs of launches will be far less than the operation of the much larger ferry boats.

Sometimes the vessel on the Demerara River run does the crossing with not more than a dozen passengers; the crew sometimes outnumbers the passengers! This does not make any economic sense.

And in Demerara, a launch service, in addition to removing the other problems, will eliminate the difficulties that arise when the tide is low and the ferry service cannot be operated.

It is time that the Transport and Harbours Department and the Ministry of Public Works revisit this longstanding suffering of the commuters who use the ferry boat service, because it is mainly the poorer classes of people who are affected.