Travellers from Buikwe to the island district of Buvuma have a reason to smile after the government purchased a new ferry.
The ferry, which starts operations on July 24, will ply the route from Kiyindi in Buikwe District to Kirongo in Buvuma District.
The poor state of the old ferry has been worrying passengers as it continued to break down in the middle of the journey to Buvuma Island, prompting islanders to use risky canoes and cargo boats.
Marine engineers from Southern Engineering Company Ltd (SECO), a marine and offshore engineering company based in Kenya, have taken nearly two years building it at Uganda Railways Corporation pier at Luzira, Kampala.
Mr Mark Ssali, the spokesperson of the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA), said the new ferry cost Shs8 billion, adding that it has improved propellers and eco-sounders, safety measures, a deck to cater for more people and toilets.
“The new ferry also has a capacity to carry a maximum of 300 passengers and 12 vehicles compared to the old one which has been carrying only 120 passengers and eight vehicles,” he said in an interview last Thursday.
Mr Alex Mabiriizi, the Buvuma District chairperson, said projects such as boreholes and road construction stalled because the old ferry broke down.
“We are grateful to government for purchasing a new ferry for us. As a district, we could no longer transport materials and machines due to the poor mechanical condition of the old ferry,” he said.
Mr Sulaiman Ssebwato, a resident, said many farmers in the area have registered losses because they could not transport their produce to markets on the mainland. “We are now optimistic that the new vessel will give us an opportunity to improve trade, businesses and safety on the water,” he said.
Currently, Unra operates 10 ferries on lakes and River Nile to connect to either sides of national roads. These are under their care and maintenance.
However, some such as Nakiwogo ferry, which plies Entebbe-Kyanvubu route, Mbulamuti ferry, which connects Kayunga to Kamuli District and MV Kalangala, which plies Entebbe–Kalangala have not been working for more than two months due to elevated water levels on Lake Victoria, which submerged their docking sites.
Other ferries managed by Unra include; Laropi- Umi ferry connecting Moyo and Adjumani districts, Masindi Port ferry for Kiryandongo-Apac route, Wanseko-Panyimur ferry for Buliisa to Nebbi and Obongi ferry from Moyo to Adjumani, MV Kyoga 1 and MV Kyoga 2, both on Amolatar-Nakasongola, and Lake Bisina ferry for Katakwi-Kumi route.