Berbice River pontoon pulled from operation

About 300 schoolchildren turned up at the Rosignol Ferry Stelling yesterday morning to cross using the pontoon MB Sandaka, only to discover that it was not working.

Some of the children were forced to travel with a speedboat, which had accommodation for 26, while others chose to go across the Berbice Bridge at a cost of $200 each. Some parents said they were afraid to let their children use the speedboat.

They lamented that they cannot afford to pay $400 daily just for them to cross the bridge, while noting that they had bought monthly contracts for their children at a cost of $200. Yesterday, the students used their contracts to cross with the speedboat.

The Transport & Harbours Department (T&HD) had brought the speedboat, which is complete with a shed, to Berbice about two weeks ago and it was taken on a test ride from New Amsterdam to the Rosignol Stelling and back.

Stabroek News caught up with some of the parents, who said they were disappointed that pontoon was removed and the authorities of the T&HD did not inform anyone. They said it could not be a case that the barge had encountered a problem because a tug would have been attached to push it. The pontoon was moored at the New Amsterdam stelling yesterday.

The boat had to make about six trips to transport the children and some parents said it was not adequate and that about three more speedboats are needed or a bigger launch.

They also said it would have even been better if government had introduced a 50-seater bus to take the children across the bridge.

The parents pointed out that the children are sitting the end-of-term exams and were worried about how they would have been able to concentrate yesterday after experiencing the frustrating situation. They said T&HD officials should have waited until the end of the school term to pull the pontoon out of operation.

According to them, they had a little knowledge about the speedboat but they did not know the pontoon would have been put out of service so soon. The parents pointed out that their children had to fill out a form about whether they preferred to use the speedboat or the pontoon and they chose the latter.

Some of the parents said they believed that the pontoon would have continued to facilitate the schoolchildren and that the speedboat would transport adults across during the day.

Meanwhile, the AFC, in a press release, said it was “alarmed and concerned by the revelation that the MV Sandaka pontoon which traverses the Rosignol to New Amsterdam route has halted operations indefinitely.”

The party noted that the Sandaka ferries school children, workers and the elderly from Rosignol to New Amsterdam on a daily basis and is a preferred mode of transport because of its cost efficient nature.

It noted that the T&HD has not provided any information as to when the services of the Sandaka would be resumed.

With students currently sitting their end of year examinations, the AFC called on the T&HD to move expeditiously to get the Sandaka back in operation. It added that given the importance of this cost efficient mode to the student population, a replacement vessel is supposed to be easily sourced and put into operation.

“The AFC understands that the astronomical cost attached to the usage of the Berbice Bridge has done little to allay the hardships faced by the poor. The AFC further calls on the administration to make a tangible intervention designed and conceived of to relief to the affected parents and students,” the release said.

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