The lack of controls to govern water transport in Uganda is disturbing. The country has no ports authority to oversee our marine transport sector. The country’s sailors cheerily cruise through our lakes without basic protective wear such as life-jackets. Yet basic safety demands that the number of life-jackets on a boat should double the number of passengers.
But news of Police Marine Unit meeting with officials of the Ministry of Transport two weeks ago is exciting. The two agencies should quickly push for issuance of guidelines on water transport. This will guide enforcement by agencies such as Beach Management Unit and control deaths on Uganda’s lakes.
The country should not make policing of Uganda’s water bodies only happen by chance. Uganda has no coast guards on its islands to check and register passengers. This free entry and exit endangers national security.
Currently, requirements for boats to have number plates, be in good mechanical condition, and have passenger capacity approved are not enforced. Most boats on Uganda’s waters are obsolete, unlicensed and uninsured and land at broken-down piers.
Certainly, Uganda can reduce accidents and reckless deaths on our waters. The country needs to consolidate its three disjointed water oversight departments. Currently, the Ministry of Works and Transport licenses and regulates boats while Uganda National Roads Authority supervises ferries, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal and Fisheries oversees fishing boats. Ferries and ships are the only marine vessels regulated by the Transport Licensing Board.
quickly develop its marine safety programmes. Presently, the country has no critical surveys done to map waterways and ensure safety of passengers and cargo on our lakes. Our sailors blindly sail and have no idea of positions of islands, rocks, and wind direction, depth of lakes, type and size of rocks and how to avoid them and what time to sail on the lakes. Our sailors rely on experience, assumptions, trees and stars in the sky to guide their paths.
Uganda needs to prioritise its water sector and free them from being death traps as happened on Lake Albert with the loss of more than 109 passengers.
The country should have its boats insured and help boat owners, operators, and passengers observe water transport standards.