Entebbe — On March 30, operators of MV Kalangala announced that they would resume normal operations soon, raising hopes of desperate travellers who use the vessel from Entebbe to Kalangala Islands.
MV Kalangala, which is the only active vessel plying the Kalangala-Entebbe route, halted services on April 4 to undergo an annual mandatory intermediate docking survey at Port Bell-Luzira dry docking site.
The work had been anticipated to take only 23 days. But a month later, the ferry is still grounded.
According to Mr Sadala Musoke, the chief executive officer of Nation Oil Distributors Ltd, a firm that manages MV Kalangala, the delay to resume operations is occasioned by the current heavy rains which have interrupted surveyors and engineers working on the vessel, forcing them to halt work for some days .
"We really apologise to our esteemed clients for not resuming operations on April 26 as earlier promised. There were things engineers wanted to fix to guarantee its [vessel] effectiveness and safety of travellers ,but the rain has affected them because they carry out their work in an open space," Mr Musoke told Daily Monitor on Wednesday.
Nation Oil Distributors Ltd undertook contract to manage MV Kalangala in April 2015. However, servicing and repairing of the vessel remains a responsibility of the Ministry of Works and Transport.
Mr Musoke said government procured expensive paint from South Africa to give the vessel a new look, but the rain has sometimes washed it away thus slowing down the work.
"If everything goes well, we plan to resume normal operations hopefully next week," he added.
MV Kalangala plies only two routes from Kalangala. It starts at 8.30am to sail to Nakiwogo in Entebbe where it docks at 11am. At around 2pm, it leaves Entebbe for Kalangala where it reaches at 5pm.
Since April 4, passengers from Kampala and Entebbe connecting to Kalangala have been hiring small boats while those with vehicles connect to the island district through Masaka District, which attracts extra costs.
With the current biting fuel prices, Mr Samuel Ssenkatuuka, a transporter, says he spends almost three times on the amount of fuel he was using when the vessel was operational.
"I am a regular visitor to Kalangala because I transport merchandise of business people, but it is becoming too costly for me to connect to the islands," he said.
Senkata, a big private wooden boat that is currently offering marine services to Kalangala, takes few passengers and light cargo.
Ms Christine Nankya, a regular traveller to Kalangala, said although Senkata provides alternative services, it can easily capsize because of strong winds.
"Besides that, it [Senkata boat]lacks a proper shelter and when it rains, passengers arrive when they are wet and shivering," she said.
According to Ms Margaret Ssempagama, the manager for Ssenkata Boat, their clients are happy with the services because the boat sails faster than MV Kalangala.
"We usually transport people even when MV Kalangala is operational and none of our clients have ever complained," she said.
According to Ms Ssempagama, their boat is licensed to carry only 90 passengers who are charged Shs20,000 each, twice the fare travellers in the lowest class of MV Kalangala pay.
MV Kalangala VIP pays Shs20,000, First class Shs15, 000 and ordinary class pay Shs10, 000.
Ms Carolyn Birungi Nanyondo, the Member of Parliament for Kyamuswa County in Kalangala District, said the delay to have the vessel back has affected the business community. "Kalangala is a key tourist destination and any interruption in transport scares away tourists," she said.
Ms Nanyondo said officials in Ministry of Works assured her that the vessel will return this Saturday.
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Publish date : 2018-05-04 07:36:21