Tanzania ferry safety: Over 60,000 passengers at risk daily in Dar es Salaam

What you need to know:

  •  As the government grapples with budgetary constraints hindering maintenance efforts, passengers remain vulnerable to these operational hazards, underscoring the urgent need for swift and decisive action to ensure their safety.

Dar es Salaam.  Safety worries loom over the daily commute of more than 60,000 passengers utilizing ferry services between Kigamboni and Magogoni in Dar es Salaam.

The apprehensions arise from the deteriorating condition of the ferries, a consequence of neglected major repairs mandated by law, schedules, and professional standards.

These concerns heighten fears of potential breakdowns mid-transit, incidents that have occurred multiple times in the past, leaving passengers stranded.

Amidst these safety lapses, investigations reveal violations of maritime laws, with some ferries surpassing the designated repair periods.

 As the government grapples with budgetary constraints hindering maintenance efforts, passengers remain vulnerable to these operational hazards, underscoring the urgent need for swift and decisive action to ensure their safety.

The Safety of Life at Sea (Solas) Act of 1974 requires that major repairs of ferries used on the high seas not exceed five years.

According to this law, these repairs should also be carried out within five years, under the guidance of the relevant maritime regulatory authority, after assessing the condition of the ferry.

In addition to legal requirements, the sea worthiness report indicates that the engines of these ferries (Mv Kigamboni, Mv Kazi, and Mv Magogoni) should be replaced as soon as they hit 10,000 hours of operation.

Violation of the Law

An investigation by this newspaper has found a violation of the Solas Act of 1974, as some of the ferries providing services in Kigamboni have reached six years without major repairs while continuing to operate, with Mv Kigamboni being one of them.

According to the maintenance schedule (a copy of which this paper has seen), Mv Magogoni was scheduled for major repairs at the beginning of 2023, but as of now nothing has been done.

However, Mwananchi has been informed about the Maritime Services Agency (Tasac) suspending the services of this ferry to protect the safety of users, but it is still operational.

"It is impractical due to the reality of demand; there are more passengers than the number of ferries available, so they must be used regardless," explained a Temesa official, on condition of anonymity.

Mv Kazi underwent major repairs in 2022 after its engines had operated for 24,000 hours, which is twice and more than the professional requirements.

Mv Magogoni, which is currently under maintenance, was sent in February 2023, but by the time it was sent, it had exceeded the maintenance period by more than three years.

Due to this situation, there have been several incidents where the ferries were either rocked by the wind easily or stalled with passengers in the middle of the waters.

On January 25, 2023, the Mv Kigamboni ferry stalled in the middle of the water and had to be towed by a cable.

Similar incidents occurred on May 12, 2023, and September 18 of last year with the same ferry.

Budgetary Problem

The failure to adhere to laws, schedules, and professional requirements for major repairs of these ferries is attributed to the lack of funds to carry out the work, as explained by a reliable source within the government.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source told Mwananchi that major repairs of ferries are funded by the central government through annual budgets.

These budgets, he says, have numerous priorities, and their release is often sluggish.

This has been confirmed through the maintenance plan for the Mv Kigamboni ferry, which required a budget allocation in the current fiscal year ending June 30.

Despite the maintenance plan requiring this, as the current fiscal year nears its end, no funds have been allocated or contracts signed with a contractor.

"No funds mean that maintenance is not being carried out; the plan is there, but the government has many priorities, and by the time maintenance is reached, the time has already passed," said the source.

Mv Magogoni Predicament

Moreover, the budget also hinders the completion of major repairs of the Mv Magogoni ferry.

The ferry was sent to Kenya in February, 2023 for maintenance expected to be completed by August 2023.

However, it has been over 15 months without the maintenance being completed, and there are no signs of it returning to the country even this year.

Investigations have revealed that this delay is caused by the government's failure to complete payments to the contractor for the maintenance of the ferry.

The initial payments were supposed to be made since February 2023 but were only made in February 2024.

The payments made in February were 10 percent of the Sh7.5 billion that the contractor, African Marine and General Engineering Company Ltd, is supposed to be paid.

A senior official from the company in Mombasa, Kenya, told Mwananchi that only preliminary work has begun so far.

He explains that the maintenance requires parts and other materials that African Marine and General Engineering Company Ltd should order with the funds, so without the funds being paid, it is not easy to start work.

According to the official, the initial payments that were supposed to be made last year were paid in February 2024.

"Work has begun but only the initial work, and the maintenance requires replacing everything, including four engines, so we haven't even reached the stage of ordering engines, which is a process that takes more than six months," he says.

Due to these circumstances, the Mv Magogoni ferry, which was expected to return in August 2023, shows no signs of returning to the country even by the end of this year.

Temesa Clarifies

When asked about this, the Chief Executive Officer of Temesa, Lazaro Kalahala, said that operations are ongoing and the ferry will return (without specifying when).

Regarding the delay in payment to the contractor, he was not willing to elaborate, insisting that the government is making efforts to ensure that the work is carried out.

"The government is doing everything possible to ensure that maintenance is carried out so that the ferry returns and the people continue to receive services," he said.

Asked about the delay in ferry maintenance, Kilahala admitted that it exists, explaining that it is due to the scheduling arrangement without affecting services to the people.

He says that after the Mv Magogoni ferry returns from maintenance (unknown when), the Mv Kigamboni ferry will undergo similar maintenance.

"Maintenance is done consecutively; our plan is that after Mv Magogoni returns, Mv Kigamboni will undergo maintenance," he insists.

The Manager of Ferry Construction and Maintenance at Temesa, Lukombe King'ombe, says that due to the high demand for ferry services, the major maintenance of the ferries is carried out without affecting these services.

Because of the high demand, he says, it is difficult to take all the ferries for major maintenance at once.

He explains that they have to send one while others continue to provide services.

"There is a large number of people whose daily lives involve crossing to Kariakoo and Posta to seek a livelihood; this is why we cannot take all ferries for major maintenance at once," he says.

To be continued tomorrow……