MV Bukakaka under the supervision of Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) has been at been at the floating dry dock at Port Bell in Luzira for three years, which has resulted into losing billions of money in docking ( parking) fees.
The Uganda Railways Cooperation (URC) Senior Marine engineer, Aggrey Ojambo, said UNRA pays URC $400 per day for the parking space for the MV Bukakata.
Ojambo said the delay of MV Bukakata overstaying at the dry dock has affected the operations of because they can hardly have other vessels repaired at the dock as it being occupied by MV Bukakata.
Ojambo said the delays also have an implication because they cannot handle emergency in case they surface on the lake, adding that they also lose business because they cannot accommodate other big vessels in the presence of MV Bukakata.
“The long stay of MV Bukakata on this dock has a big negative impact on us because we operate on the business model. It also poses a challenge for us to rescue any vessel which could be under the threat to under sinking,” he said.
Ideally, according to Ojambo, MV Bukakata could have taken only three week to undergo all the necessary repairs if all that is required was put in place to have it fixed and it would also save URNA money.
“This Ferry was meant to be here for only three weeks but it has not taken three years paying USD 400 per day. Any business sensible man cannot compare the cost of three weeks to three years. It does not make any economic sense,” he added.
He said UNRA could have used the opportunity and the Ugandan capacity to save huge amounts of money to have completed the repairs.
“UNRA has not been able to clear the docking fees to URC and it is had issues with the contractors a reason to why the vessel have been on the dock for more time than expected,” he said without mentioning the figure they own UNRA.
However the UNRA head of public and corporate affairs Mark Ssali did not deny that they are in arrears with URC.
“We are aware about the arrears we have with URC and top management of UNRA is engaging with URC to ensure we clear our debt with them, “he said.
Ssali also regretted the delays of finishing the repairs of MV Bukakata which he said were as a result of poor works by the contactors.
“The first contract did a shoddy work and he was terminated, we went on to get the second one who did not do they do. At the moment, UNRA is back in the to get another contract to do the job and I am sure within the next two months, MV Bukakata repairs will be done,” he said.
The Managing Director Kalangala Infrastructure Services Ltd (KIS) John Opondo agreed with Eng. Ojambo saying that initially Uganda used to take her vessels to Mwanza in Tanzania and Kisumu in Kenya for repairs which could be done here.
Opondo said whenever Uganda would take vessels to Kisumu and Mwanza they would pay almost thrice of what UNRA is paying in Uganda.
“At first we used to take our vessels to Tanzania and Kenya but we have actually realised that it can be done here. We have just had our own MV Ssese repaired at this dock.
If we had taken it to Mwanza, we would have spent more than USD 400,000 in repairs, direct and indirect cost but here spent only 200,000 and time,” he said.
The Kalangala Resident District Commissioner Caleb Tukeikiriza said blamed the delays in repairing MV Bukakata to confusion and disorganisation of government’s agencies.
“This could have been worked on long time ago, if UNRA, Ministry of works and URC had a good working relationship,” he said.
The Kalangala district LCV chairperson Willy Lugoloobi said the water transport has not been a top priority to government compared to other sectors.
“Our government has been paying attention to the road sector, upgrading the airfields and lately to the railways but the water transport has been a neglected child,” he said.
Lugoloobi said MV Kalangala is due for repairs according the marine international laws but he expressed concerns that this will affected service deliver and local revenue in the district.
The vessel that plies Nakiwogo landing site in Entebbe and Lutoboka in Kalangala on daily basis has to undergone mandatory inspection and servicing as a requirement to meet the International Maritime Organization (IMO) seaworthiness requirements.
“We are scared if MV Kalangala is taken to Mwanza for repairs it will take more time there as it was before which will affect business in Kalangala,” he said.
According to Lugoloobi, taking vessel to Mwanza is unnecessary expenditure as the have government have the same facilities at Port Bell pier.
However sources from the ministry of works and transport the dry dock at Port Bell can ably facilitated the servicing of the vessel if has no any vessel pending repairs. However currently the dock is engaged by MV Bukakata by UNRA which is pending general repairs and modifications before being allocated to Buvuma Islands at Kiyindi whose vessel is old and too small to handle the increasing traffic volumes.
He said Kalangala can only be accessed by water and if MV Kalangala is not operational, many beaches and hotels are likely to lose business like it was two years when the vessel was taken for repairs.
“You cannot charge a hotel or beach owner local service tax when they do not get guests to stay at their hotels. It’s my appeal that UNRA works on MV Bukakata faster to give away for MV Kalangala to be repaired and serviced at this dock in Ugandan instead of taking it to Mwanza where we will be spending along of money and losing time, “he said.
He however was quick to add that, the 0safety of the people is important but appealed to the concerned authorities to have it done in Uganda.
“I know its mandatory for the vessels to be repaired every after two years and this business is heavily dependent 0on insurance because there no insurance company that will pay you in case of the problems that’s why we have to follow the rules and regulations to ensure that people’s safety is guaranteed,” he said.
Monica Azuba, the works and transport minister, the ministry is planning to remodel Port Bell and the Jinja pier to become regional hub and attract more vessels from neighboring countries.
She said water transport has been neglected, yet it is a modest means of transport for bulky cargo and could protect the road infrastructure from premature failure.
The vessel can carry 22 trailers full of fuel and has fuel reserve tanks (Bankers) of 120,000 liters that can run it for one month.
“Water transport is something we have to pay attention to due to its capacity in transporting bulky cargo. Using water transport will also save our roads from getting old faster due to heavy loads of cargo,” she said.
Abudul Kasiko a professional diver said the ships pass through a lot of hazards like fishing nets. These get stuck in propelas leading to warming up of engines and breakdowns.
“When engines warm up, ships use a lot of fuel leading to losses. Each ship should be checked by engineers at least twice a week depending on its operations,” he said.
Aggrey Bwanga the MV Kaawa Captain said if a ship is operating on salty water, it must be docked and checked as there plates rust often as a result of the chemicals in the water.
For those that operate in fresh waters, they must be docked and checked at least twice every two years. However if there is an emergency, a ship should dock immediately for a checkup as required by the law.
After 10 years of service, a ship must be docked and parts should be changed.
Joseph Mulindwa, the KIS public relations officer, explained that Uganda has the capacity of repairing vessels here and it will help build capacities of our local engineers. “Imagine even the painting of these vessels have also been done in Mwanza but if we keep on doing it here we will create a cadre of technical people on marine sector.”
By Hope Mafaranga