…mother asked to pay full fare for 6-month-old babyResidents of the Island of Leguan, in the Essequibo River, are complaining bitterly about the sudden hike in speedboat fares due to the lack of a regular ferry service.The normal fare from Parika to Leguan is about $500, but residents are now being forced to pay as much as $1,500, depending on the number of passengers in the speedboat at that time.Speedboats lined up at the Leguan StellingAccording to residents living on the island, the ferry service has not been working to its normal schedule for the past six months, and passengers have no other choice but to pay the very high and unreasonable fare to travel. The speedboats are outfitted to transport about 10 passengers at once, but because of low numbers of persons travelling to and from the island, the speedboat operators would sometimes enforce a call for double fare or higher.One mother told this publication that she has been left stranded many times for refusing to pay for her six-month-old baby.The residents are contending that the entire arrangement needs to be relooked at, and they are calling on the Government to alleviate their sufferings by reinstating a regular ferry service to the island.Additionally, the residents are saying that because of the lack of a proper ferry service, they are now being forced to pay extra for their goods in an already dwindling economy.Deteriorated stelling postsFor years, the issue of an unreliable ferry service has plagued the island, but according to the residents, the issue has gotten worse over the last year, since the MV Sandaka started encountering mechanical problems.The engine of the MV Sandaka was reportedly damaged a few months ago, and emergency repairs were executed. However, it failed again a few days after, and now the MV Malali is servicing Leguan. The MV Sandaka is docked at Mazaruni, awaiting a new engine.Another major issue is the Leguan Ferry Stelling, which is on the verge of collapsing. The timber planks supporting the stelling are rotten, causing residents to be fearful, since heavy vehicles traverse the stelling. In addition, the decking is loose and uneven, with rails hanging on to literally nothing at certain sections on the ramp. The stelling has been in this deplorable state for over one and a half years.The residents also indicated that a concrete-post-and-wood-decking stelling served no purpose; hence they are calling for a fully concrete stelling, noting that it would last longer with little to no repairs.Guyana Times was also told that in addition to loose decking and rotten posts, the lower ramp used to load laden vehicles onto the ferry is in such a deplorable state that vehicles are unable to access it. Vehicles have to wait until the tide is high enough for them to access the high ramp to load or offload, which affects the business community, since critical goods cannot be delivered in time, and farmers’ produce would perish.Following the Guyana Times’ report, Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson announced that Government is in the process of awarding contracts for the rehabilitation of the Stelling. The Ministry would also go ahead and effect emergency repairs on the stelling.On Tuesday, the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board opened tenders for the rehabilitation of the Leguan Stelling. According to the engineer’s estimate, the project will cost $455.3 million. The project saw 10 local companies bidding.