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The drowning of two passengers near Calf Island in the Essequibo River last September and the recent drowning in the Pomeroon River were the result of negligence, not divine providence, says former President David Granger. He renewed his call for stricter enforcement of regulations to ensure passengers’ safety on the country’s rivers.
Speaking on the importance of river safety on his weekly programme – The Public Interest – last Friday, Mr. Granger reminded that river transport was a necessity for hinterland and riverine residents to reach their farms, schools, shops and workplaces in areas without roadways. He opined that rivers are the country’s ‘arteries’ of growth but they must be used safely to prevent lawlessness.
The former President related that more than twenty riverine deaths occurred in the last two years. “Protection of passengers’ lives requires regulation without which accidents will continue to cause damage, death, distress and injury. Traffic on major rivers by farmers, fishers, loggers and passengers including schoolchildren should be safe. The lives of mothers with young children and the disabled must be safeguarded,” Mr. Granger said.
“River transportation safety is a serious commercial enterprise, not a regatta. It cannot be left to chance but requires central administration, legislation, organisation, regulation and implementation of the law. The necessity for transportation safety – recognised for over a century and a quarter – brought the Transport & Harbours Dept. into existence, the former President noted.
The Maritime Administration Department should be expanded to enhance river transportation safety with the addition of a new ‘National River Transport Safety Agency’ to mandate enforcement campaigns.
Mr. Granger recommended also, the establishment of a Motorboat Operators’ Training Institute to edify motorboat operators about their legal obligation and practical operation of boats and to certify them to operate safely to prevent accidents and protect human lives. He said, further, that there should be a Search and Rescue Service to respond to assist passengers in distress.