After two months of long wait, travelers to and from Kalangala who use MV Kalangala will have to wait longer, after government decided to take the vessel to Mwanza, Tanzania for repair and servicing. The decision was taken after failing to secure space at Port Bell, Luzira dry docking site. A dry-dock is machinery that is used to lift ferries and other marine vessels from the water to allow engineers look beneath the vessel and carry out major renovations and routine service.
The vessel suspended operations on February 9, and has been docked at Port Bell Luzira since then. For over two months now, the dry-docking site at Luzira is still occupied by MV Kawa which is also undergoing repair after it got damaged in a collision with its sister ship MV Kabalega which sank into Lake Victoria in May, 2005.
MV Kalangala which is being managed by Nation Oil Distributors (NODL) on behalf of government, was expected to resume normal operations on March 9, but this was not possible. According to Hajji Sadala Musoke the Executive Director NODL, the Vessel is expected to spend two weeks at Mwanza, Tanzania.
The minister for Transport and Works Gen. Katumba Wamala confirmed that MV Kalangala was taken to Mwanza. “We couldn’t wait any longer because MV Kawa has really spent much time on the dock than what we expected, therefore we decided to use this period to take it to Mwanza so that by the time the lock-down is done, its back and travelers can be able to use it,” noted Katumba.
Government had stopped taking Ugandan vessels to Mwanza and for the last two years, the vessel was serviced at Portbell Luzira. MV Kalangala is the only public vessel that plies the Nakiwoga –Lutoboka route. By taking the vessel to Mwanza for dry docking, government is likely to spend close to Sh2b.
Servicing of the vessel which is technically known as docking survey, helps to check the vessel’s operational safety status. All vessels are supposed to be examined in dry dock at intervals not exceeding two and half years.
Since February 9, when MV Kalangala was taken for dry-docking, and before the lock-down, tourists and business people going to Kalangala have been using private boats that charge between Sh20,000 to Sh45,000 up from Sh10,000 charged by MV Kalangala. Those with huge luggage have been using the ferries managed by Kalangala Infrastructure Services (KIS) from Bukakkata landing site in Masaka to Bugoma landing site in Kalangala, a journey considered to be longer.
MV Kalangala was procured in 2005, in fulfillment of President Museveni’s 2001 campaign pledge to the islanders. A couple of years ago government promised to procure another vessel which will only be carrying passengers from Entebbe to Kalangala. The expected new vessel will be taking less than 2 hours to sail from Nakiwogo in Entebbe to Kalangala Islands.