After a 19-year hiatus, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure has reconvened the Transport Advisory Council in a bid to improve the operations of the Transport and Harbours Department (T&HD).
The seven-member board comprises Chairman Basil Blackman, deputy chairman Marcelene Merchant, Ayesha Edwards, Leon Castello, Louise Williams, Sandra Jones and Saheed Sulaman.
Speaking at the commissioning of the advisory council, Minister within the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Annette Ferguson said that the council being reconvened was in keeping with her promise to the National Assembly.
“Despite the development in air and road transport, a significant number of Guyanese still depend on riverine transport for economic, social and educational purposes. Given the geography of Guyana and the population distribution across the country, riverine transport services will be needed for the foreseeable future,” Ferguson said, while stating that even though thousands of Guyanese are still heavily dependent on the industry, there are necessary improvements and modernizations which are required in order to improve passengers’ travelling experience.
She also explained that instead of all the instructions coming from either the Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, or her, the T&HD will now be equipped with an advisory council of competent persons and will be able to function independently.
“They [T&HD] really needs the assistance. As the Minister, I cannot do it alone or Minister Patterson. Once you have the competent people they would be in a better position to give us the necessary guidance, so that informed policies can be made to charter the organization forward,” Ferguson explained.
Recalling her charge to the department in its 85th year, the Junior Minister said she is still challenging the agency to restructure, reinvigorate and reposition itself in order to continue offering reliable scheduled services to the Guyanese people who heavily depend on river transport. She said that even though the department has an old and “rapidly aging fleet of vessels”, the ferry services that are being offered will continue to upkeep the vital link in the transportation network, primarily in the riverine areas, at an affordable cost to commuters.
“This government is making significant provisions in the 2016 and 2017 budgets in improvement for stelling facilities, vessel repairs and even in the acquisition of a new ferry, all in the effort to better the lives of all Guyanese,” she added, while stating that she was challenging the council to pay keen attention to staffing and administration, operation and services offered to the public, and to ensure that policies and regulations are recommended in order to improve the department’s efficiency.
Ferguson also said that she wants to see the services being provided improved technology-wise, and is hoping that the purchasing of tickets at the stellings will be a thing of the past and provisions will be put in place for an online hub.
Making brief remarks, Chairman Blackman, said he was happy for the opportunity to chair the board and will do his best to ensure that there are ample provisions and efficiency in the newly resuscitated T&HD Advisory Council.
Merchant, who is also the General Manager of the T&HD, also expressed her gratitude and said the help is needed by the department.