Hundreds of passengers travelling to Zanzibar were yesterday stranded at Dar es Salaam port for not possessing identity cards to allow them buy boat tickets.
The new system was announced by the Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (SUMATRA) early this month to help among other things, ferry owners have documentation of foreign and local passengers, financial records and control conmen who buy tickets and sell them at exorbitant prices during late hours. The system is also to identify passengers during accidents.
Interviewed separately, passengers blamed Sumatra for introducing the new system without educating the public. They said the authority should have given them at least four months for preparation.
“We weren't aware that boat tickets must be booked using official identity cards...this is unfair," said a resident of Pemba, Yusuf Maadi, who was supposed to travel back to his home yesterday but failed to fulfill Sumatra's requirements.
He said the authority should have announced commencement of the new system through the media to enable people carry their identity cards with them.
"I was shocked when boat ticket agents refused to provide me with a ticket just because I didn’t have an ID. I don’t know how I am going to travel since I left the IDs in Pemba,” he complained.
Meanwhile, boat ticket agents differed in their opinions whereas others complained on the relevance of the exercise, saying it is of no importance if its target is to control and reduce marine accidents.
“The government should come up with concrete strategies to prevent marine accidents in the country instead of introducing new systems which add to problems for passengers. This system will never be a solution to accidents,” Rashid Kilewa, an agent for Sea Star boat said.
An attendant with Azam Marine and Coastal Fast Ferries, Hassan Kilemile, appealed to his colleagues not to undermine the system because apart from reducing accidents it is beneficial to ferry owners.
“Those who criticise the system will realise its benefits in future”, he said.
Reached for comment, Sumatra Public Relations Officer David Mziray said the exercise is there to stay.
He said it was introduced sometime back but was poorly implemented. “We launched sometime back, but yesterday we were reminding them,” he said.
He appealed to passengers to carry their IDs whenever they go in order to avoid inconveniences. He mentioned the relevant IDs as driving licences, Voter IDs, work IDs, passports, birth certificates, national IDs or any other card issued by the local authorities.