Ailing MV Kimbia departs for Kumaka

– problems to be addressed on return

Despite having a mechanical problem which was not fully remedied, North West ferry MV Kimbia departed Georgetown for the hinterland yesterday morning, even as many passengers expressed concern over the state of the vessel.

According to a source within the Transport and Harbours Department (T&HD), the aged vessel left the city for Kumaka in the Mabaruma Sub-region under “handicapped” conditions around 9 am. The source said that a generator on board the vessel, which supplies power to sections of the vessel, had been faulty in recent months and while the equipment was made operational on departure yesterday, it needed to be adequately addressed.

Several passengers standing around the MV Kimbia following its return to the Water Street, Kingston wharf of the Transport and Harbours Department (T&HD) on Wednesday.

The source said too that there were other technical problems on the vessel, which had not been docked since 2010 but the T&HD was instructed to proceed on the trip yesterday and address such problems when the vessel returns to Port Georgetown.

There are also reports that the emergency engine on the vessel has been out of order for years and according to a source close to the agency, only one of the two engines on board the vessel has been functioning to its full capacity over the past several months.

“The crew got to work overtime to coax the vessel along and that is why now the boat takes so long. Ideally it should take 18 to 19 hours but now it takes sometimes 36 hours and therefore burns like an extra 400 gallons of fuel,” the senior former maritime official said.

The vessel has experienced mechanical breakdowns on several occasions in recent times; it was forced to limp to and from the city on one engine on several occasions in recent years.

Meantime, several commuters complained of harsh treatment by staff of the T&HD yesterday morning prior to departure. They said they were not provided with meals or water by the authorities as had been promised the night before.

One passenger said he and his family of four, including children were “economizing” on the little snacks they had for the trip. “I didn’t cater for this and well we just hoping we reach Mabaruma without anymore problems,” he said. He told this newspaper that many persons depend on the ferry service since it is cheap and more convenient to transport bulk cargo to the North West.

On Wednesday afternoon, the MV Kimbia broke down shortly after leaving the Water Street, Kingston wharf of the T&HD as the generator malfunctioned less than 20 minutes after departure. The vessel returned to the port but many passengers complained that they were not provided with any information by T&HD staff until twilight when they were told the vessel would have departed yesterday morning.

The age of the MV Kimbia and the MV Lady Northcote had been criticised on many occasions in recent times. Both vessels have been operating on the waters for more than six decades. Transport Minister Robeson Benn stated recently that the government has looked at a number of options for replacing the old vessels but all of them are expensive. He added that it is looking at acquiring either a new or used vessel.

Meantime, the Lady Northcote is expected to undergo substantial repairs following last Saturday’s fire, which occurred while the vessel was minutes away from the city. Reports are that the T&HD was working to find another vessel to ply the Port Kaituma route in its place.

Both vessels are viewed as important forms of transportation by residents in the North West District, since they transport a variety of perishable and non-perishable goods. Trucks, minibuses and cars are transported on almost each trip to and from the city to the interior location on board the two vessels.

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