No overloaded boats this Christmas

10/12/2013 08:14

The Consumer Council of Fiji is warning the Inter-Island shipping companies against overloading their boats this festive season.

The shipping companies must monitor their ticket sale to gauge the number of passengers they can carry on board.

The Council is also urging the shipping companies to follow the time table to ensure that consumers reach their destination on time and not be stranded at the wharfs.

We are also urging the Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji (MSAF) to take necessary proactive steps to keep these ships in check for passenger safety.

Over the years aggrieved consumers have expressed dismay over the poor services provided by the shipping companies; there is disappointment, frustration and distrust with the operators.

Consumers have had to endure: loss of their personal belongings and cargo; no prior notice and sudden change of schedule while travelling; delays in departure time; poor and inhumane conditions on board the vessels and; general disregard for customer redress.

Close to a hundred complaints have been received from consumers in the past five years; these cases show the extent of operators’ disregard for consumers’ rights. The shipping companies are oblivious to the discomfort that passengers have gone through and how they have been left stranded at wharfs waiting while some did not make it on time to celebrate Christmas with their loved ones.

This is just the tip of the iceberg as consumers living in the Maritime Provinces and remote outer islands, who are users of the shipping services for their livelihood, may also be faced with similar experiences.

Consumers should not be placed in such compromising situation where they have spent nights at the wharfs waiting in vain or they spent more money to buy tickets with another shipping agency to travel to their destinations.Shipping companies need to coordinate with their various ticket agents to keep a tab on their ticket sales to avoid consumer dissatisfaction and curb the issue of passengers stranded at wharfs and overloading boats.

The Council reiterates that passengers should not be left in disarray due to a shipping company’s poor organisation.

The Shipping companies must be responsible and use mass media, in particular, radio, to inform the consumers in case they have to cancel the trips as in previous years, there was no prior notice given to the passengers and trips were just cancelled, leaving many stranded.

The Council will be monitoring the shipping services as presently, many consumers will be travelling back and forth to be with their loved ones to enjoy the festive season.