NEW FERRY, NEW PROBLEMS, ALREADY?
Rowdy scenes by travelers were reported in the local Ugandan media, surrounding the new MV Pearl ferry, officially launched only days earlier by the Minister for Works and Transport, when an apparent damage to an engine, caused by striking submerge rocks on attempting to land the ferry, required repairs to the new vessel.
Operating the service between the main island of the Ssese Islands group in Lake Victoria, Buggala to the mainland at Bukakata near Masaka, the new ferry reportedly then failed to operate the last scheduled crossing due at the end of the day on Saturday, prompting waiting passengers to vehemently protest and, according to one report, waylay the ferry staff, when they tried to return to their base at dusk. Police had to be deployed to restore order but those attempting to return to the mainland found themselves stuck on the island, having to find accommodation for the night and spending extra unbudgeted funds.
The ferry then resumed services later on Sunday to allow a maintenance team to complete their task but observers have voiced concerns that the substantially larger ferry, compared to the previously used type, may have to use different operating methods when landing or leaving to avoid hitting submerged rocks, which were too deep for the old ferry but pose a threat to MV Pearl due to the substantially larger displacement.
A crossing previously took over an hour and is now reduced to theoretically 20 minutes, with perhaps some added time now set aside for a slower final approach to avoid rocks and the capacity has been lifted to 20 vehicles.
Tourism for the Ssese Islands and in particular Buggala is expected to get a significant boost from the larger capacity ferry, making it easier and faster to cross the waters, to then either stay on the main island or use smaller lake boats to reach other, smaller islands where the ferry cannot dock and to enjoy the hospitality of a number of small locally owned beach side resorts. Long off the beaten track, the Ssese Islands are thought to have a significant potential for the development of both domestic tourism from within Uganda but also for foreign visitors, who have started to visit in greater numbers to enjoy the removed locations, the good fishing and the local food and hospitality in small, owner operated little resorts as notably not one major local hotel management company, leave alone the regional hospitality leaders, have yet set foot on any of the islands. But when they do, be sure to read about it right here, so watch this space.