Yesterday’s edition of The Citizen featured a photograph depicting a hectic scene at Mwanza port, as cargo was being off-loaded from MV Victoria. The thrust of its caption was the fear that the ship was too old and slow to function properly – a fear that, in our opinion, is wholly justified.
The 18th anniversary of MV Bukoba’s sinking, 30 nautical miles (53 kilometres) off Mwanza was marked on May 21, 2014. An estimated 1,000 people perished in Tanzania’s worst maritime disaster so far.
Experts and extra-observant lay persons remarked that it was an accident waiting to happen, citing shortcomings like overloading, inadequacy of life jackets, lack of periodic maintenance and regular inspection of equipment.
Given a smooth and faster road network, passenger pressure on MV Victoria isn’t great. Still, there’s a compelling need to ponder whether the 53-year-old ship is being dry-docked for maintenance and repairs regularly enough to ensure stability and reliability, and whether on-board safety precautions provide high-level ‘worry not’ reassurance.
We are proposing, though, that a new ship should replace MV Victoria before it turns into scrap material. It should then be converted into a floating hotel, a multi-purpose recreation centre, or a venue for events like book fairs, workshops and seminars.