Alford C, the Transport and Harbours Department (T&HD) speedboat which plies the Berbice River, ceased operation for the entire day on Wednesday after an engine failure, disrupting travel for scores of commuters. The boat was, however, back in service yesterday morning.
The service disruption resulted in fresh calls for the return of the MB Sandaka pontoon service, which was officially replaced by the speedboat on June 27.
The 26-seater speedboat was moored at the New Amsterdam Ferry Stelling on Wednesday morning, while its operators were occupied in a game of dominoes and commuters fumed.
They complained about the “stress of waiting until the boat made several trips across the river”; “being locked out of school and facing detention,” and being “forced to pay a $600 return fare per day from a minimum wage income.” They also complained about the length of their daily commute owing to the large number of persons accessing the service and the limited seating capacity.
A police officer informed this newspaper that there are two captains manning the vessel, who would work interchangeably on a weekly basis.
The police officer said that while one captain would limit the load to 26 passengers per trip, the other would transport more, which could result in a disaster.
In addition, it was also observed that while a ticketing system is in place, persons arriving late would duplicate tickets and thereafter enter the boat prematurely, leaving behind those who had arrived earlier. It was suggested that tickets be colour-coded so as to prevent this situation.
As a result of the large number of commuters who use the speedboat service on a daily basis, it was suspected that the wooden, single engine vessel was unable to bear the strain and would repeatedly encounter difficulties.
As a result, travellers appealed for the pontoon service to be restored. “It is safer, and more commuters can travel together at any given time,” one of them said.
On July 6, when Transport Minister Robeson Benn had visited the location following pleas from the public, he emphasized that the speedboat service was fundamentally safe. “If you, as a parent or individual, believe that travelling on the boat is not safe, don’t use it. That’s your choice. You have an alternative,” he said.