MV Kalangala operators want more passengers on ferry

Sunday September 22 2019

Ferry. MV Kalangala docks at Nakiwogo pier in

Ferry. MV Kalangala docks at Nakiwogo pier in Wakiso District. PHOTO BY EVE MUGANGA 


MV Kalangala operators want government to review their operations and allow them carry more passengers on the ferry than is currently permitted.
Mr Fahd Ssozi, the public relations officer of Nation Oil Distributors Ltd, the company that runs the ferry, said the current cap of 100 passengers allowed makes the ship operate below its capacity.
“When you look at the influx of people, it keeps on increasing, because in our agreement with the government four years ago, they didn’t know that people travelling to Kalangala will increase in future,” he told Sunday Monitor in an interview on Thursday.
“The capacity it carries is really less and affects us and the vessel because it’s not given the capacity it’s supposed to carry. This vessel has never reached even its quarter tonnage; it has 162 tonnes and 100 people don’t even make one tonne. Even if every person were to weigh 80 kilogrammes, their total weight would be only 800 kilogrammes, which still doesn’t make one tonne, so the remaining tonnes are left for cargo, which cargo we don’t also get,’’ he added.
Mr Ssozi also said they are sometimes forced to carry water equivalent to 60 tonnes because the engines demands having the recommended capacity load to enable the vessel balance on water.
“Our technical experts told us that we are weakening these engines. Therefore, we request government to review and increase the number of passengers or substitute them with cargo to enable us carry more travellers or cargo,” he said.
But when contacted, Gen Katumba Wamala, the state minister for Works, said, “Will the review enlarge the vessel? If they are not ready to comply, let them drop the contract. We are not about making money but safety. The nation is in grief about the people who died last week, so we can’t risk people’s lives.’’
Only two weeks ago, the government warned MV Kalangala operators against overloading the Lake Victoria passenger vessel following public outcry in the media.
In a letter dated November 18 to the managing director of Nation Oil Distributors Ltd, the Works and Transport ministry Permanent Secretary, Mr T.B Kavuma, said reports from both the media and ministry teams carrying on-spot checks indicate that MV Kalangala is loading beyond its recommended capacity.
The letter also warned the operators to stick to recommended loading capacity as spelt out in the contract.
This newspaper on November 15 reported worried passengers raising concerns over tendencies by the operator to overload the vessel, creating fears of a possible disaster.
Last week, shock engulfed the nation when at least 32 revellers drowned as their boat capsized near Mutima Beach as it was sailing to K-Palm Beach on Mpata Island in Mukono District. Earlier, on the same lake in Tanzania, another vessel MV Nyerere, capsized and had more than 200 people drowned in September.