By Moses Ssentamu
At about midday on Thursday October 1st, Maria Nakanjako was at the waiting lounge, towards Ssese Habitat Resort in Nakiwogo.
It was return date for MV Kalangala’s maiden voyage, eight months after suspension of operations. The vessel was taken to Mwanza, Tanzania for servicing.
On return, its docking piers at Port Alice in Nakiwogo and Lutoboka in Kalangala had submerged. The increasing water levels had taken over spaces that harbor Mv Kalangala’s docking.
The Maritime department of the Ministry of Works and Transport, together with operator Nation Oil Distributors Limited embarked on a repair and upgrade exercise that saw the piers improved.
At this time, islanders were trapped, with no direct route from Entebbe to Kampala. The alternative, MV Vanessa and Natalie were quite expensive. It required one to have Ugx 100,000 to travel to and from Kalangala.
“This is 10 times higher than the cost of Mv Kalangala. Businesses were at standstill, no vehicle would move. Only the rich and wealthy could afford,” Ismail Sserwadda says.
Eight months later, the crew was back together, Works minister Katumba Wamala, with advice from a Marine technical team cleared the resumption of services of the Vessel.
At the point of return, the Vessel needed Standard Operating Procedures as Covid 19 had taken shape, the number of clients reduced, sanitizers instituted and temperature guns acquired. All boarding going through rigorous Covid 19 checks.
For Maria Nakanjako would waited for more than 2 hours before departure time, it was a fascinating experience, out growing nostalgia, anticipating safety of maritime and safety against Covid 19.
“I can now make my shopping and do business. It is cheaper,” Nakanjako says.
The vessel spends three and a half hours on water, sets off at 8.00 am in Kalangala for a return voyage daily. It is supposed to carry 100 passengers and 8 crew members.
With the new guidelines, the vessel will take 75 passengers and the crew to ensure social distancing. All passengers are expected to wear masks. For a cruise worthwhile, a deck with fresh air, watching nature and lush vegetation remains a thrilling experience.
Hakim Bwanika, the Public Relations Manager of National Oil Distributors says, for a worthwhile voyage, MV Kalangala operators shall enforce strict guidelines to avoid the spread of the Novel Corona Virus.
He adds, even when with a reduction in the number of passengers, the costs of transportation in the VIP and ordinary section remains the same. VIP costs Ugx 14,000 while the ordinary section is at Ugx 10,000.