The government has said it is in its final stages of establishing a marine institute to train vessel operators a measure that seeks to curb water accidents.
Eng Abraham Byandala, the Works and Transport minister said that it is incumbent upon government to have such an institute that will produce qualified vessel operators in line with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) standards.
IMO is a United Nations agency responsible for standard-setting to attain safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping to which Uganda is a signatory.
“We have realised the need for this institute for the safety of water transport users. We will now partner with Maritime institute of Tanzania as we build our local capacity,” Eng Byandala said.
He did not however, give the number of accidents that occur on Ugandan waters but estimated it in thousands, majority of which are not reported.
Eng Byandala said the institute will be established in a period of three years but before that, 53 operators have started a four weeks training at Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) offices at Kyambogo.
Normally, the vessel operators training takes a minimum of five years and the skills that the operators are being equipped with; firefighting and prevention, personal survival techniques, first aid, personal safety and social responsibility are just basics.
The instructors are from Maritime Institute of Tanzania, the only East Africa accredited marine school.
The institute will be established at yet to be known location along Lake Victoria shores and currently, Works ministry is negotiating with Uganda railway which has chunks of land along the lake for the establishment of the institute.
But before the institute comes into operation, there must be a law to guide its management, according to Eng Byandala.
“We have finalised a Bill that will guide us legally and we will table it before parliament in this financial year,” he said.
Currently, Uganda National Road Authority (UNRA) operates nine vessel crossings, that is, Masindi Port-Kungu, Nakiwogo-Buwanya, Kiyindi-Buvuma, Laropi-Umi, Wanseko-Panyimur, Obonyi-Sinyanya, Kasana Bugobero, Zengebe –Namasle and Bukakata-Luuka.