Minister Addresses Parliament on Lake Victoria Tragedy.
The Minister of Works and Transport, Hon. Monica Azuba Ntege read out a statement to Parliament on the tragedy that occurred on Lake Victoria on 24th November 2018. The accident claimed over 32 people with the number expected to go up and only 26 of the more than 100 people were rescued. The minister said the passenger boat sank off Mutima beach, about 12 nautical miles from Ggaba beach on Lake Victoria. The accident involved a private cruise boat allegedly owned by Templar Bisase and his wife which was unregistered, unlicensed and may have been uninsured.
Apparently, the vessel was previously a trawler which was converted into a passenger’s vessel without requisite approvals by the line ministry and was operating cruise voyages mainly on weekends between various private beaches in Mukono. The vessel which was destined for KK Palm Beach in Mukono District having started its voyage over four hours late. The delay was because the Captain refused to set sail after disagreeing with the owner of the ship about its condition which led the owner to engage a skipper to navigate the ship.
Hon. Monica Azuba emphasized that there is a need for citizens of Uganda to respect the Government agencies especially the Uganda Police Forces whose duty is to keep Law and Order in our society. A police officer who intercepted and ordered the vessel not to make its voyage because of the vessel’s seaworthiness was threatened by the owner of the boat to throw the officer in the water for interrupting their joy ride.
The statement by the Ministry acknowledged that a local fishing boat passed by and advised them that the vessel was taking in water, some of the revellers listened and disembarked to the small boat for their safety, but the rest of the revellers proceeded with the journey towards Mutima beach.
The minister informed the house that as the vessel was sinking, a local boat operator phoned other operators in Ggaba informing them of the sinking vessel and also proceeded to help evacuate passengers. Unfortunately, his vessel was overwhelmed by the passengers attempting to embark and it also sunk killing the boat operator and some of the passengers.
According to preliminary investigations, it is indicated that there was an increasing water level in the lower compartments of the vessel. This signifies that the vessel was leaking with water entering the bilge which the lowest compartment of the vessel. The bilge should be kept dry at all times by use of bilge pumps.
In a bid to reduce water transport accidents in Uganda, the Ministry has proposed undertaking the following measures; strengthening inspection, registration and licensing of all marine vessels, review and update of legal framework (Inland Water Transport Bill). The minister added that they will strengthen surveys and inspection, strengthen surveys on all the conventional vessels and issue International Safety certificates on behalf of the Country.
The Ministry further proposed to train boat operators, monitoring and regulation of vessel operations like strengthening with strict guidelines the registration of passengers embarking and disembarking vessels and vessels intending to offer cruise services. The ministry will be developing infrastructure at landing sites, beaches and marinas for safe embarkation and disembarkation of passengers. Most importantly, the Ministry will also strengthen the sensitizing of boat owners, operators, passengers and local communities about water transport safety using all available media together with the Security Agencies.
The Ministry also emphasized emphasize that the general public should always take personal responsibility for their safety by ensuring the use of appropriate lifesaving appliances and avoiding vessels without statutory certifications like operator licenses.
MPs extended their sincere condolences to the families of the deceased and a moment of silence was monitored to pay respect to the deceased. Friday 30th November has been declared a day of mourning for all those that lost their lives and the announcement was made by the Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Gen. Moses Ali.