Dar es Salaam. New details have emerged that could explain why the government goofed in purchasing the Sh8 billion MV Dar es Salaam passenger ferry that experts now fear could be grounded before the job for which it was bought starts.
Investigations this week by The Citizen revealed that relevant authorities did not carry out any feasibility study to establish if there was need for the ferry in the first place. The feasibility study, according to a marine expert, would also have informed the type or make of the ferry and if there would be the requisite support infrastructure to operate it locally.
The fresh details will add to the growing controversy surrounding the procurement of the 300-sitting capacity ferry and reported technical deficiencies that may render it unusable.
The government through the ministry of Works ordered for the ferry in 2013 to help decongest Bagamoyo and Ali-Hassan Mwinyi roads by plying the nearly 78 kilometres from Dar-es Salaam port to Bagamoyo.
But there are now fears that the ferry builders may have got it wrong from the onset, particularly on the choice of material used and its speed as the three long hours that its takes to cover one-leg of the route may not be feasible. The ferry has reportedly been unable to reach a top speed of 20 knots as requested by the government and, instead, tops out at between 14 and 15 knots.
The expansion of Bagamoyo road over a year ago that has since minimised the dreaded gridlock could also impact negatively on the deployment of the ferry, while reported resistance by private beach plot owners to let the government construct anchoring berths along the route is another headache.
Three months after the boat arrived, construction of the planned jetties for passengers has not started. The jetties are to be erected in Kawe, Mbweni, Jangwani, Rungwe Oceanic, Kaole and Mbegani, areas found to have no public access roads to the beach or public transport connectivity.
Owners of some of these plots have won temporal court orders to block construction of the jetties on their land. The ministy has already admitted that this shortcoming will cause a six month delay in putting the ferry into use.
The ministry of Works apparently by-passed the need for a feasibility study, instead directly commissioning a Danish firm -JGH Marine - to supply the ferry which members of a Parliamentary Committee described a week ago as “substandard.”
The Citizen has learnt that Tanzania Electrical, Mechanical and Electronics Services Agency (Temesa) which owns and operate the ferry did not conduct a feasibility study on the project.
The Citizen can also reveal that hydrographic survey to measure physical features and descriptions of the route of MV Dar es Salaam, prediction of their change over time for purpose of safety of navigation was not done.
The survey defines shore line and under water features and are crucial in design and construction of a ferry.
The analysis is crucial for correct design decisions which are made right from the project inception stage for assurance of navigation safety and the easy use of the boat. The survey is a pre-condition for anyone planning to build a ferry for it helps in measurement of tides for sea and determination of bed depth for navigation, location of rocks, sand bars and navigation lights.
Queries over construction material
Marine experts are also questioning the use of aluminum to build the body of the boat, saying it was ‘technically so risky’ to use aluminum for a passenger vessel. It makes a ship of low standard and risking to carry cargoes.
According to one expert, ferries used for carrying passenger are built by steel plates. Aluminum are mainly used for building fishing boats and boats for sea games.
Aluminum boats can also get easily damaged if it scraps against a sharp coral rocks or subjected to metal fatigue and denting.
A source privy to the purchase of the ferry has told The Citizen that engines of MV Dar es Salaam were refurbished and not brand new and are of low capacity, perhaps explaining why its speed was a serious concern.
Temesa CEO Marcellin Magesa yesterday refused to comment on the issue even after the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works Musa Iyombe directed this reporter to seek answers from her. She hanged off her mobile phone after our report introduced himself and put a question to her.
Danish firm JGH Marine that was contracted through the Tanzania Electrical, Mechanical and Electronics Services Agency (Temesa) subcontracted a Bangladesh-based company Western Marine Shipyard to build the boat. The Bangladesh company confirm in its website it received the work to build a 300-seater ship through JGH Marine.
Last week Temesa CEO Marcellin Magesa strongly refuted reports of subcontracting. “The builder is a Danish company…it is the one we entered into a contract with and it is the one which delivered the ferry to us,” she said, adding: “There is nothing like subcontracting unless you have seen the subcontracting agreement.”
The Citizen could not independently verify if the contract Temesa entered with JGH Marine allowed the Danish company to subcontract.
Bangladesh is well known as a famous ground for breaking of old ships and areas near Chittagong—Bangladesh’s main port where MV Dar es Salaam was built—is scattered with debris of thousands of old ships.
Works minister who conceived the idea, John Magufuli hoped that the vessel will drastically help reduce traffic congestion in Dar es Salaam.