The ferry launch that never was

MV Amani docked at port Bell before its failed launch
MV Amani docked at port Bell before its failed launch

Pollution in Lake Victoria stalls intro of ferry project.

Due to neglect and mismanagement, the ferry system serving Lake Victoria out-rivals supernatural myth as the stuff of legends. The collapse of railroads and ferries preceded that of the East African economies that depended on them. Sadly, the increased and disorganized road traffic makes transportation all the more perilous. Any actions to enhance water transport and bring it back to its former glory would be a definite win for investment on any terms.

On August 4th, 2011, The Lake Victoria Ferry Project in the form of the MV Amani Ferry was launched – in a manner of speaking. The officials invited to the launch included Minister of Works John Byabagambi and his counterpart Stephen Chebrot, Minister of Transport. There were also other ministry officials and journalists present for a ‘trip around the bay’. This enterprise was intended to reestablish transport systems on Lake Victoria.

A little background before describing what happened. It is a common sight to see trucks bearing commercial and industrial goods, blocking roads and speeding across highways, often leading to traffic accidents. Ugandans have forgotten that there was once a time that water transport was the norm.

In came EarthWise Ventures, a company that serves Africa by investing in projects to rebuild infrastructure, create economic corridors and a spillover effect to allow other ventures to grow and prosper.

“Return on investment is found both in financial profitability, as well as the collateral benefits of social and economic development”, said EarthWise Venture’s CEO Rob Smith. “We believe that the best return on investment in all areas will be realized in the rebuilding of the transport and agricultural sectors, and that our goals can be accomplished while exercising environmental responsibility”.

Unfortunately, EarthWise Ventures, and partners Thain Boatworks, learned too late that they should have gotten the permission of the ‘environment’ to collaborate with their grand plans.

The enthusiastic hopes of the honored dignitaries for rapid future economic development were quickly dashed when just outside the harbor; the engine began to overheat, causing the emission of black smoke from the engines exhaust system. The engine had to be shut down. The problem? The cold water intake had become fouled with bottom lake debris while at the Port Bell wharf. The overheating problem was essentially caused by lake pollution.

Rob Smith, the CEO of EarthWise Ventures had a shocking revelation to make.

“A few weeks prior to the launch, I had to pull several bucket loads of tangled fishing nets, vege-tation and such riff-raff from the propeller shafts”, he said.

Unfortunately, no official at the National Environmental Management Fund (NEMA) was will-ing to give a comment on the degradation of the lake, despite the fact that its current condition may jeopardize all future transport operations. The debate over the proposed sale of the Mabira Forest must be keeping them very busy indeed.

On the bright side, this potentially harmful event has brought the ports disintegration and poor conditions directly and personally to Ugandan government officials. Everyone is now concerned about cleaning up the port facilities in the interest of helping companies like EarthWise Ferries and others who are attempting to develop trade and commerce around the lake centered at Port Bell.

“This tragedy was a consequence of pollution and environmental degradation around Port Bell”, said Minister Byabagambi. “I am calling for the removal of dysfunctional ferries like MV Mu-vule, which has been docked at this pier for ages”.

The MV Amani is currently under renovation. But one has to wonder when the lake will follow suit? Over to the environmentalists.

By Lindsey Kukunda