(MV Victoria at Mwanza port)
Fear and worries have gripped regular lake travelers who were out of the blue confronted with, what has been called irresponsible statements by poorly informed individuals, who set the media on the shipping companys trail.
A company spokesperson immediately denied any wrongdoing or as has been suggested non compliance with maritime regulations, saying the required sea worthiness certificate was up to date and valid until next year, when the vessel will undergo safety inspections for a renewal. Other sources from the lake side city of Mwanza also suspected that competitors on the route between Mwanza and Bukoba on the Western side of Lake Victoria could be behind the smear efforts, trying to revive memories of the MV Bukoba disaster some 16 years ago, using the May 21st anniversary of the tragic accident to gain attention.
Maritime inspections were considerably stepped up since the ferry accident off Zanzibar last year, when hundreds drowned and more were unaccounted for, similar to the MV Bukoba accident in which as many as 1.000 passengers could have drowned, a figure difficult to ascertain as no manifest gave records of those on board similar to the Zanzibar sinking.
The MV Victoria, pictured above courtesy of Mr. Asif Jawad of LakeZoneDesire, was built 52 years ago and is licensed, according to information at hand, to carry up to 1.200 passengers and crew and 200 metric tons of cargo. It is the only major ship regularly sailing between the two ports, with alternative transport available by air and through a lengthy road trip. Records availed show that MV Victoria last had a major overhaul 20 years ago but had regular repair work carried out as well a preventive maintenance. Said a periodic source from Arusha, when contacted to comment: It is a bit irresponsible to make such allegations in public that a ship is not safe. The Zanzibar accident has brought many changes how existing regulations are now enforced. The local media should also not jump on every carrot which is dangled before them without making sure of all facts and established if they are not being used by competitors for their own end. But for sure training in emergency response for land based rescue teams, available rescue assets and better communications is something Lake Victoria should have to promote better use as a tourism resource. There is a lot of potential for lake tourism and it has not been used at all so far. Watch this space.