Kalangala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | A cross section of travelers have decried the prolonged absence of the MV Kalangala ferry.
The ferry stopped operating the Entebbe-Kalangala route in February when it was taken for regular maintainance.
Seven months later,the ferry has not yet resumed operations.
Now, travelers including Nalongo Agnes Nansamba, a businesswoman who regularly plies the Entebbe-Kalangala route want the ferry to resume operations.
Nansamba says the government has for the last seven months kept changing goal posts on when the ferry would resume operations. As a result, travelers have to spend shillings 35,000 per trip during the weekdays and shillings 45,000 shillings over the weekend when they use other means. The MV Kalangala charges shillings 10,000 and shillings 14,000 per trip, much cheaper than the private speed boats.
It is also less costly and time saving than the alternative route via Masaka which costs over shillings 120,000 to and from Kalangala.
Nansamba adds that the high transport costs have essentially had a negative effect on her profit margins from her business in Kalangala. Sarah Nantongo, a mother of two who is doing business in Kalangala agrees with Nansamba saying government should return the MV Kalangala.
Nantongo says she has also not been able to visit her children for several months due to the high transport costs. Her children stay in Kawempe, and yet she has to operate her bar and hotel businesses in Kalangala.
However, Samson Ssemboga, a resident of Banga-Nakiwogo, urges the public to be more patient so that government can work on the docking piers and also put in place the safety measures to combat the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) when the ferry resumes operations.
Initially, the ferry stopped operations to undergo it’s annual servicing in Mwanza, Tanzania. It returned to Nakiwogo docking site in May. However, it could not resume operations immediately because it’s crew members, six in number were quarantined inside the ship for two weeks.
Then, the ministry of works and transport, in partnership with National Oil Distributors Ltd (the company contracted to operate the ferry) had to repair the docking piers at both Nakiwogo (Entebbe) and Lutoboka (Kalangala).
The docking piers got submerged due to the high water levels of Lake Victoria, particularly in the months of May and June when the water levels surpassed the 13.41 metre record of 1964.
However, the works stalled because of the high water levels coupled with strong waves. As a result, works at Nakiwogo docking pier were completed end of August and those at Lutoboka last Wednesday.
However, the ministry of works sent a team of inspectors at both docking sites last week and they are yet to release their findings and decision on whether the works fulfill the requirements.
Secondly, the ministry of health has to inspect the ferry and assess whether it will facilitate the observance of standard operating procedures for public transport service providers.
Some of the draft guidelines include handwashing facilities and that each person on board must wear face masks among others.
Susan Kataike, the spokesperson for the works ministry says that an official statement will be released early this week regarding the operations of MV Kalangala.
However, last week, Gen. Katumba Wamala, the minister for Works and Transport announced that the ferry will resume operations end of this month.