Saturday, January 22, 2005

New regultions in the pipleline to prevent reocurrence

by Jonathan Teuma

Local maritime company Turner Shipping yesterday confirmed that new safety regulations for the ferry service to Morocco will soon be coming into place to prevent a reoccurrence of recent ugly scenes at the terminal.

Speaking to the Chronicle yesterday director Leslie Whitwell said that the new guidelines from the police and port safety officers will be adhered to and a firmer grip on weight restrictions will come into place “in order to avoid a reoccurrence of the incidents witnessed last Wednesday at the ferry terminal.”

Meanwhile the Port Authority has confirmed that meetings will take place between Police, Customs, Turner & Co and themselves in order to set out these new procedures. Reports that passengers were left stranded on the quayside were refuted by the Port Authority and Turner who say the ferry later made a return trip to take the passengers that were left behind.

In reference to last Friday’s incidents the company stated that tickets were sold for 363 passengers and 40 cars.

Mr Whitwell denied reports that they had oversold tickets to the Moroccan workers. He said:

Passenger capacity for Tangier Jet is 558 and garage space onboard is for 60 cars plus two buses… therefore our sales were well within the ferry’s limit. The extra ferry put on Wednesday 19th January had sold 508 tickets for foot passengers and 38 for cars. All tickets sold are automatically logged on the main computer system and once the limit is reached the computer will not allow us to print or sell more tickets, so it is impossible for us to over sell even if we wanted to do so.


He said the problem lay in the weight that passengers intended to take onboard. In many cases [cars] are overloaded to the extreme…” sometimes needing “…up to eight persons physically pushing the car as due to the amount of weight it has inside the engine alone cannot possibly manoeuvre the car onboard.”

Mr Whitwell stated that “last Friday’s excess weight caused the ferry almost to exceed its Plimsoll Line and the Master of the ferry informed us and port authorities that once this line was reached he would stop loading passengers as safety regulations have to be adhered to and would not be breached.” According to the company, passengers tried to rush on board by any means possible despite being informed that that the ferry would make a return trip later on that night. This situation was repeated on Wednesday and on both occasions police had to be called in to control the crowds.

MWA EXPRESS INDIGNATION

While accepting Turner & Co’s assertion that excess weight was the reason behind the disruption of the ferry service last Friday and Wednesday, the Moroccan Workers Association has condemned the company for what they claim is “a lack of seriousness when it comes to addressing what are on-going problems with the service they provide.” According to an MWA spokesman the “disrespectful attitude to clients” by ticket staff further aggravated the situation on Wednesday.

The spokesman affirmed that weight problems always affect the service on religious holidays and long weekends and that despite being aware of this, the company repeatedly fails to take measures to address the situation. As well as this, the spokesman claimed that the ferry is often a few hours late or does not turn up at all. This in turn leads to nervousness among the crowd, which is generally made up of people who have not seen their family in many weeks and are therefore eager to go.

Furthermore, the association reproaches Turner & Co for having no formal complaints procedure, claiming that directors take no notice of grievances put to them by clients. According to the spokesman, meetings held between the company and association have resulted in Turner & Co dictating measures rather than dialoguing with them. He added that verbal complaints have been made to the Port Authority but no action has been taken.

For its part the Port Authority say they have received no complaints.

After witnessing the disturbing scenes of the last week in which many people fell or where thrown over, women fainted and luggage was lost, the Moroccan Workers Association fears that only after the occurrence of a disaster will appropriate action be taken.

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