Travelers to Buvuma Island have to part with more money following a hike in the boat fares.
Boat operators have reportedly hiked the fare following the suspension of ferry services from Kiyindi landing site in Buikwe District to Kirongo landing site in Buvuma District.
Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) suspended ferry services until November 24, to repair the ferry which had developed some defect. As a result, boat operators have taken advantage of the absence of the ferry to make more money.
On a normal day small boats charge Shs3,000 per passenger without goods but have now increased the fare to Shs5,000. Passengers with heavy luggage have been paying between Shs5000 to 7,000 but now have to part with about Shs12, 000.
Teddy Nakato, a dealer in plantain says she was forced to offload the bananas from two trucks and transport it using small boats. Nakato expresses distress for hiring trucks, which are now stranded at the island.
This means she will have to pay the truck owner for extra days they will have to spend at the island without working. She pays about Shs250, 000 for three days.
“Every time you use the ferry you are charged starting from the person who carries you, the situation forces many business people to give up. Many vehicles get stuck here yet they are usually hired for business,” she said.
James Nambula, a trader at Kirongo landing site notes that boat owners take advantage whenever the ferry is suspended to hike their fares knowing that people have no option other than using boats. He appealed to UNRA to always monitor the condition of the ferry and communicate in time to allow people to prepare for the situation.
“There are those who fear travelling using boats and also those that have never used them, so when the ferry is not working they are stuck and some are forced to cancel their journeys. With the ferry it is free of charge,” he said.
However, Ayubu Onale, a boat owner at Kirongo explains that they lack enough safety gears such as life jackets, a situation that forces them to hike the fares to enable them hire the jackets and engines as a way of ensuring safe transportation of people and their properties.
“We incur much costs to buy life jackets, our appeal to the government is to help offer to these life jackets at an affordable price so that we offer services at reduced prices to our people,” he said.
However, Allan Ssempebwa, the UNRA Public and Media Relations manager called for calm and patience as they ensure servicing and maintenance of the ferry.
“As the authority we must ensure security for our people. We are also committed to completing a new ferry that shall be plying that same route starting February next year,” Ssempebwa said.
This is the second time ferry services to Buvuma are being suspended this year. The first incident happened in February.