ARUA. The local leaders of Pakwach district have urged Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) officials to consider placing safety measures on Albert Nile to avoid imminent cases of water accidents.
The appeal follows concerns of overloading and the inadequate number of life jackets for MV Albert Nile 1 ferry users at Panyimur and Wanseko landing sites in Pakwach and Bullisa districts respectively.
The concern was raised during a stakeholders’ engagement meeting organized by UNRA at Heritage Courts hotel in Arua town on Tuesday.
“I don’t know the scope of your road safety audit but I’m imagining part of it should involve issues of life jackets. You did say that the capacity of Panyimur ferry (the MV Albert Nile 1 ferry) is 250 people and 16 vehicles a trip but right now, there is a concern of overloading at Panyimur ferry especially during market days,” Mr. Swaib Toko, the Pakwach resident district commissioner (RDC) said.
According to Toko, to avoid any future cases of water accident, UNRA should consider increasing the number of trips the Panyimur ferry makes on daily basis and avail more life jackets for its users.
In an earlier status report, Eng. Julius Mwesigwa, the UNRA Arua station manager said the MV Albert Nile 1 ferry operates from Monday to Saturday including public holidays, making two round trips from Tuesday to Saturday.
He, however, observed that due to high demand on market day in Panyimur on Mondays, a third trip round was added by UNRA in October this year.
But Toko believes that the three trips on market days are not enough as over 500 people flock the ferry on a single trip.
“If you are making three trips on market days, we are requesting you to increase because we have noted with concern that the ferry is overloaded on market days and above all, the life jackets on the ferry are not more than ten,” Toko said.
“And if that is the case, you need to make me understand what is meant by road safety audit if, on water, it doesn’t involve life jackets,” Toko added.
Similarly, Mr Robert Steen Omito, the Pakwach district chairperson expressed worry for the users of Albert Nile 1 ferry.
“My worry is that I have ever used the ferry but it is normally overloaded during market days with very few life jackets compared to the number of people aboard,” said Omito.
“I’m in fear following what happened on Lake Victoria a few weeks ago that if a serious measure is not taken by UNRA in terms of downsizing the load on the ferry and providing more life jackets, anything can happen on Albert Nile,” Omito stressed.
In response, Mr Henry Drici, the acting MV Albert Nile 1 ferry master rubbished the allegations, saying he has lifesaving equipment on the ferry.
“I have 300 life jackets; 50 for children and 250 for adults but the only challenge we get is that people don’t want to put the life jackets on,” said Drici.
He told the local leaders that safety on the vessel is assured and called for no need to worry while using the MV Albert Nile 1 ferry.