By Donstance Koroma
Managements of MV Freetown and Maherah ferries are struggling with cost of maintenance and repairs.
The two ferries owned by Libyan investors ply the Freetown-Targrin waters of the Atlantic ocean in Sierra Leone.
Management of two ferries seem apparently constrained of paying repair and maintenance cost which they say is high. “ Major ferry maintenance goes for US$90,000 and minor maintenance is US$60,000,” one of the management officials said.
No doubt, ferry management has been grappling with challenges which have remained unsolved to date.
Relevant institutions in the Ministry of Transport and Aviation, Sierra Leone Ports Authority and Sierra Leone Maritime Administration have proved to be helpless in enhancing sea transport.
The agencies are yet to meet benchmarks recommended by international organisations in terms of effective rescue operations and provision of fire extinguishers.
Apart from the lack of protective equipment, the Kissy and Tagrin remains unsafe. Both are littered scrap metals and other sharp objects that damage ferry propellers.
The mud at the terminals is another problem management faces in their ferry operations. “Sometimes, the ferries get stuck at the mud,” the official complained. “The Sierra Leone Port Authority deliberately or otherwise refuse to drag the huge amount of mud along the jetties or runways,” he added.
The ferry management also spoke about the non-existence of shops for ferry spare parts in the country. “ In such a situation, we are forced to procure spare parts from Europe,” management said. The officials saw the import of the spare parts from Europe as a financially demanding venture.
The Holland Shipping Yard, a Netherlands company based in Sierra Leone is the only one provides repair and maintenance services for ferries.
The company enjoys a monopoly status, a situation that provides the environment for demanding exorbitant prices.
Owing to government delays in addressing ferry management concerns, relevant authorities have been requested for the extension of jetties or change ferry schedules to prevent frequent breakdowns.
This medium is reliably informed that the two ferries can procure a state-of- the-art engines if government facilitates the dredging of runways or jetties.
The importance of ferry to the country’s transport sector cannot be overstated. The two management teams are paying taxes to the relevant institutions, but they are virtually deprived of the facilities they must enjoy to consolidate their investment in the country.
By Donstance Koroma