Something is definitely wrong with the management of the Essequibo ferry MV Sabanto and the Transport and Harbours Department. There always appear to be cover-ups for the problems at the Parika stelling. As far as I can remember, when this ferry first came from China and docked at Parika to ply the Essequibo route, it was more spacious and convenient, departing and landing on time. Commuters were happy with the service; the ferry took about one hour to complete its journey. After a while it was departing from both Supenaam and Parika one hour behind schedule.
This has caused the people of Essequibo to lose their appointments with their doctors, ministries etc. When booking to travel we were told to be at both stellings 2 hours before the departure of the ferry, only to end up waiting another hour for some unforeseen reason. Vehicle owners with a sick passenger sometimes have to leave their homes in Anna Regina or Charity at 2 am for the 4 am departure, and expect to leave on time, only to be disappointed sometimes with delays.
I also observed that this ferry is being packed like sardines with vehicles without a space or a track in the event of an emergency. I witnessed on one of my trips from Parika to Supenaam that the ferry was already loaded with passengers and vehicles and was ready to sail on time but the captain was still on land. When he turned up an hour late, he ordered the sailors to rearrange the boat which was already parked to make way for another vehicle.
That night we arrived at the Supenaam stelling late and it was very dark, and there were difficulties mooring the ferry. That took another hour. I cannot understand why vehicles and passengers do not get a hard time boarding the ferry at the Supenaam stelling, even when they are late. At Parika stelling commuters and vehicles have a difficult time boarding the ferry; it seems to me that this stelling is the right environment for bribery and corruption because of the many hiccups. The number of lorries from Essequibo that travel on the ferry daily, is the same number that returns in the afternoon after they have discharged their loads in Georgetown.
I know that the Minister will try to make the excuse that the stelling is under repair at the moment, but this hassle has being on going for months and the authorities have been turning a blind eye to the situation. Drivers of lorries and cars who arrive at the gate to enter the stelling are told to park outside, while others are allowed to parked on the stelling awaiting the loading of the boat. Those vehicles which have booked long in advance are told that their numbers are not in the book. I can see the frustration in their eyes, begging the security to be allowed to get on the boat so they can get home. Some of these officers and gate women are reasonable and will assist you, but others are very rude to commuters.
I ask myself, when will things get better in Guyana? Something has to be done urgently to correct this situation at the Parika stelling. You never get that kind of treatment at Supenaam; the officers are kind and courteous and will go all out to help you.