Thursday, 22 June 2017

How many more must die in boat disasters?

For some time now, Ghanaians have been reading and hearing about boat disasters on the Volta Lake. 

Several lives have been lost in accidents which occurred on the lake, which have mostly been attributed to overloading.

Last Monday, four persons drowned in the Volta Lake at Yeji in the Pru District of the Brong Ahafo Region.

A canoe carrying over 20 people travelling from Yeji to Makango in the East Gonja District of the Northern Region capsized at about 9pm, resulting in the death of the four persons due to overloading.

The canoe, built to carry only five people, was said to be loaded with over 20 people at the time of the accident.

That was not the first time a boat disaster had occurred on the lake. 

For many people living around the lake and on the islands in it, boat accidents are part of their daily experiences.

They go through these experiences because they have no choice but to resort to the use of boats to travel to and from their destinations and transport their goods to the marketing centres.

It is not their fault that they find themselves in that part of the country. 

Their forebears lived in those areas before the construction of the Akosombo Dam, which led to the creation of the Volta Lake.

In other parts of the world, it is a pleasurable experience to travel by boat on lakes or settle along water fronts.

Unfortunately, in Ghana, we have allowed boat operators to do their own thing, thereby exposing users of water transport to many risks, including threats to their lives and property.

Consequently, private boat operators have a field day, with those desperate to travel to communities along the lake compelled to use the boats, even if they are overloaded.

In other places where different forms of transport are available, the operators of boats cannot dictate the terms because the people have other options.

The apathetic attitude by the appropriate authorities in the operations of the lake transport service is the cause of the numerous boat accidents recorded on the Volta Lake.

This latest accident should not call for the setting up of a committee to investigate the causes. 

The causes of boat accidents on the Volta Lake are all too obvious to us.

A key finding of most of the committees of inquiry is the poor management of safety and security on the lake, which has been taken for granted for a long time now.

These lapses in safety measures on the lake are what partly informed the government and the Transport Ministry to set up the Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA).

The GMA was set up to provide leadership in maritime matters, of which transportation safety on the Volta Lake is a key part. The GMA, with its vast maritime expertise, is best suited to manage safety on the lake.

Stakeholders in the lake transport industry should strictly adhere to the licensing of the boats, the certification of boat operators and boat mechanics, and the proper design and construction of the boats.

A taskforce must also check drunken and unruly behaviour of boat operators and prevent boats sailing in bad weather.

The people who patronise the boats should also be educated about the dangers of boarding an overloaded boat or canoe.

 

Read 395 times Last modified on Wednesday, 11 May 2016 08:13