Enterprising ferry operators ease Honiara's traffic woes | Pacific Beat

Enterprising ferry operators ease Honiara's traffic woes

Enterprising ferry operators ease Honiara's traffic woes

Updated 12 May 2014, 17:43 AEST

The deadly flash flooding which hit Solomon Islands last month has created an innovative business opportunity for some of its victims.

The floods washed away one of the two bridges in the capital, Honiara, leaving the city struggling to cope with major traffic jams.

But as Catherine Graue reports, local entrapeneurs are now capitalising on that misfortune.

Presenter: Catherine Graue

Speaker: Samson Mae, ferry operator; Charles Fakaia, ferry operator;

GRAUE: It had stood for nearly 70 years, but the old Mataniko bridge was no match for the raging river on April 3rd.

The floods took the lives of at least 22 people, dozens of homes - and damaged vital infrastructure, including the bridge.

The Mataniko river runs through the heart of honiara, so with only one bridge left standing, the city's already bad traffic is a whole lot worse.

Trying to cross that bridge to reach places such as Chinatown and the hospital can take as long as 45 minutes.

That is, until now.

Locals such as Samson Mae have got creative - starting up a makeshift ferry service.

MAE: Everyone is happy with us. they are happy with us for transporting them every day

GRAUE: As many as 2000 people a day are now crossing the river on rafts, dinghies or old fishing boats that are pulled across on a fixed rope.

And fellow entrepreneur Charles Fakaia says they're discovering just how lucrative the concept is.

FAKAIA: In one day my small boat can make as much as $AUD 190 if there are people here to cross.

GRAUE: That's much needed money - to re-build the dozens of homes at the nearby Koa Hill settlement which were wiped out in the flash flooding.

The profits are being shared by various victims, with families taking turns to operate the boats.

Samson Mae is one of those.

MAE: My father-in-law is one of the victims. He had three houses and they were washed away in the floods.

GRAUE: But while business is booming for now - it may not be sustainable.

A portable, single-lane bridge donated by new zealand is expected to arrive later this month.

It'll help deal with the traffic congestion for the interim, but a more permanent structure will still be required.

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