and unless the Sierra Leone Maritime
Administration's Executive Director, Mr. Philips
Lukuley, and his team, are really seen to match
words, policies, and commitment with action, there
is in prospect for Sierra Leone more loss of
thousands of lives of our fathers, mothers, brothers
and sisters; resulting from capsizing boats/pampas,
that don't have on board any life jackets, as
prescribed by the Sierra Leone Maritime
Administration Act, for the safety of both
passengers and crew, in the event of inclement
weather or storms.
It could be recalled
that the rather unfortunate Shenge - Tombo boat
disaster of Tuesday 8 September, 2009, in which over
200 Sierra Leoneans perished, was very largely owing
to the pathetic fact that the killer boat; "Gbolcharang",
meaning in the Sherbro language, 'clean heart', did
not have a single life jacket on board, for neither
passengers, nor crew!
It was past
Saturday November 21, 2009, at exactly & 5:5am, when
I arrived at the Kissy Ferry Terminal. I was on my
way to Masoyila-Lungi in a bid to visit an ailing
close relative of mine.
The only private
ferry that was in operation, Muzuk, was berthed over
at Targrin. Great Scarcies Ferry, which is likewise
privately owned, was out of working order and
berthed at the Kissy Ferry Terminal.
were already over loaded with at least a 150
passengers on board each, and just ready to start or
put on there outboard engines to ferry their human
cargo from the Kissy Ferry Terminal to Targrin.
There was not a
single life jacket in any of the overloaded boats
getting ready to sail.
At exactly 8:45am,
one of the overloaded boats set sail. Then, at
8:50am, the other left.
And because my
investigations had revealed to me that the Muzuk
ferry that was berthed at Targrin would be leaving
there by 11:00 am, to sail to Kissy Terminal, and
leave Kissy Terminal at 1: p.m. back to Targrin, I
decided to risk my life by jumping on board, into
the third and only overloaded boat which like the
previous two was about to sail to Targrin.
On board, I asked
the Captain of the boat, why his overloaded boat
like the two that had previously set sail did not
have a single life jacket on board.
I likewise asked
him whether he was not aware that if constituted a
grave offence to ferry passengers in any boat
without the exact number of life jackets for the
passengers… and crew alike.
His reply to my two
concerns raised was that…. "Pa look me, if you
dae wait for life jacket before you go, den do ya
cam dong from my pampa saful… na huna all puel dis
country… if government know say a for get life
jacket na mi pampa, mek dem supply me, a nor get any
forkin money for go buy life jacket… do ya, sidom
saful if you wan for go ya!"
I kept quiet and
said nothing further. He started the outboard engine
and ferried us, about 155 of us, across to Targrin.
It would interest
readers to know that on my return at about 4:30pm it
was, the same life jacketless boat that again
ferried me from Targrin back to the Kissy Ferry
Shenge-Tombo boat episode, no storm caught up with
us at sea while we were crossing the estuary of the
Rokel River… If there had been one, God only knows
what would have become of us, passengers and crew,
in a boat without a single life jacket…!