MV Kalangala, the vessel which plies the Nakiwogo -Lutoboka route, suspended operations yet again on March 6 to allow it undergo servicing.
Unlike the servicing of the vessel which focused on maintenance and repairing of its hull (underside of the vessel) last year, the scheduled exercise will entail overhauling its engine, according to Mr Sadala Musoke, the chief executive officer of Nation Oil Distributor Ltd, a firm that manages the vessel.
“MV Kalangala shall be breaking its normal transportation services between Entebbe and Kalangala for approximately a month. As a mechanical prerequisite, the ship is supposed to have an engine overhaul after every 10,000 running hours,” Mr Musoke said in a March 3 statement.
Travellers spend between Shs10,000 and Shs14,000 to travel from Nakiwogo in Entebbe to Lutoboka using MV Kalangala.
In the meantime, Mr Musoke advised passengers with cars and heavy loads such as timber to use the two ferries run by Kalangala Infrastructure Services (KIS) at Bukakkata Landing Site in Masaka District.
However, the distance from Kalangala through Bukakkata to Kampala is longer than the Kalangala-Entebbe route, and travellers have to incur more expenses.
Travellers without vehicles will be using private vessels plying the Entebbe-Kalangala route such as MV Vanessa and MV SENCATA.
On average, MV Kalangala carries 100 passengers with eight cars.
According to Mr Joseph Mulindwa, the KIS spokesperson, MV Pearl and MV Ssese each carry about 300 passengers per journey, with their cargo.
Both ferries operate daily from 7am to 5pm, running eight trips per day and four trips on weekends.
MV Pearl leaves Bukakkata at 8am and arrives at Bugoma at 8.30am, while MV Ssese leaves Bugoma at 8am and docks at Bukakkata at 8.30am.
MV Kalangala leaves Lutoboka at 8am and arrives at Nakiwogo at 11.30am. It leaves Nakiwogo at 2pm and arrives at Lutoboka at 5.30pm.
Mr Derrick Kizito, a businessman in Kalangala Town, wondered why the general servicing of the vessel was not done at once last year when the ship was taken for the annual mandatory docking inspection.
“Fixing the ship’s engine is good, but we really don’t know how long that exercise will take. Whenever they take that vessel for servicing, we spend several months without public means of transport, which paralyses most of our businesses on the island,” he said.
Mr Brian Ssekindi, a transporter, said: “MV Kalangala is like a road connecting to Kalangala, without it operating our mobility to the mainland is entirely cut off especially to those who don’t have enough fuel to use the Kampala-Masaka-Bukakkata route.”
On February 9 last year, MV Kalangala suspended its operations after it was taken to Mwanza Port in Tanzania for periodic mandatory docking inspection.
Even when the vessel returned to the country in May, it remained grounded as both its docking sites at Nakiwogo in Entebbe and Lutoboka in Kalangala were damaged due to the elevated water levels in Lake Victoria. It only resumed normal operations on October 1.
MV Kalangala, which is the only active public vessel plying the Kalangala –Entebbe route, was built in 2005, in fulfilment of President Museveni’s 2001 campaign pledge to the islanders.
In 2019, the government announced that they were in the process of procuring a second modern vessel, which will operate alongside MV Kalangala.
The Kalangala District chairperson, Mr Willy Lugolobi, said the timing for the maintenance was inappropriate.
“We are preparing for the busy Easter holidays where many people had booked hotels. This means hotel owners have to refund their clients’ money since there are no cheaper means. Secondly, the alternative route via Bukakkata to Masaka is far and expensive,” he said.
He also added that when MV Kalangala stops operating, this affects operations at the district. “Like last year, when the vessel was out of operation for eight months, the district lost about Shs1 billion in taxes since the tourism sector was largely affected,” he said.
He urged the government through the Ministry of Transport to engage stakeholders and find a cheaper alternative for the people.