Monday August 11 2014

After drunk drivers, police now target boat operators

A police officer displays a breathalyser

A police officer displays a breathalyser that will be used on boat operators in a bid to curb accidents. Photo by STEPHEN WANDERA. 


Police have said they will subject water vessel operators suspected to be drunk to breathalyser tests to curb indiscipline on Uganda’s water bodies.

The announcement was made ahead of the strong and dangerous winds that dominate much of Uganda’s water bodies during June and October.
Many accidents, according to the Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesman, Mr Patrick Onyango, have been found to be caused by drunken boat operators who fail to control their vessels because they are drunk.

“We are going to use breathalysers to stop drunken operators from carrying passengers since this season requires extraordinary skills to navigate the troubled waters. We do not want people to drown,” Mr Onyango said yesterday.

Strong winds
Between June and October, due to strong winds, water bodies experience volatile waves that often hit small and medium boats to pieces which put the lives of occupants at the risk of drowning.

Since the breakdown of main ferries, many passengers travelling to places like Kalangala District use boats and canoes.

Mr Onyango said of late they have started receiving an increase in cases of travellers drowning during.

“Often revellers or travellers ask for rides and we have found out that most boat operators don’t take the weather patterns into consideration,” he said.

Boat cruise has become a new entertainment on a number of lakes. However they have been patronised by alcoholic drinks and drugs.
Mr Onyango said the Marine Police unit has been directed to ensure that passengers using water vessels have life jackets and whistles, especially at beaches and landing sites.

“We have also talked to the lifeguards at different beaches to be vigilant and also stop drunken revellers from going for boat cruise deep into the water,” he said.

In 2013, police emergency rescues on water increased from 56 to 81 cases. Only five people were rescued alive while 47 found dead.

curbing accidents on Uganda's waters
E existing marine police, with its thin strength, checks smuggling, rather than safety on the lakes. This unregulated water transport has resulted in many fatal boat accidents due to unchecked overloading, sailing on undesignated routes, use of drugs and alcohol and use of defective boats and canoes.

March’s boat accident on Lake Albert which claimed more than 100 lives is one of a series of water accidents in the recent past. The causes of these accidents are many. Mr Mohmoud Magdy, an Egyptian marine engineer working in Kimsam Investment, a boat building company in Jinja, says Uganda’s water transport needs a hydrographic survey.

This entails determining what lies below the lakes, depth of lakes and creation of navigational channels. The hydrographic survey provides basis for mapping water ways and ensuring safety of passengers as well as cargo on lakes.