NEWLY-commissioned MV Victoria Hapa Kazi Tu has been fitted with special fault detection devices a well-thought-out move billed to ensure passenger safety while onboard. Such sensing devices are primarily aimed at alerting the vessel’s operators to make instant intervention in case of any fault.
Revival of water transport from Bukoba to Mwanza was one of President John Magufuli’s top priorities and the move means a lot to the economy of the Lake Zone regions whose other activities hinge on transport.
The government is focusing on boosting businesses through the water transport because it is cheap and reliable in comparison to other means of transport.
As the government works hard to ensure ordinary Tanzanian lives get better in line with the fulfillment of President Magufuli’s 2015 general election pledge that a new ship would be built, passenger security and safety remains equally important.
And, this premeditated move of installing such devices to check accidents resulting from technical faults comes while memories on marine related mishaps that claimed lives of hundreds in separate incidents in the East African nation are still fresh and will actually remain so for a very long time.
Tools in the New MV Victoria Hapa Kazi Tu are set on the centralised system, with sensing devices whose function is to alert, if they detect any possible fault, just for passengers’ security purposes. Once they detect any technical error, the sensors do alert while producing the volume/ sound in line with the scope of the problem.
If it is a small problem, then the alerting sound will also be small to direct technicians to rush to their areas (machineries), inspect and fix the problem while the ship is moving. Once the problem is big, which might cause serious damage, the alerting sound will start down and get increased in no time, and all main engines might immediately shut down even before experts have reached the machineries.
“But, the engine shut down means security and nothing else. Nothing bad can take place simply because the ship has gone off. The problem will be observed and fixed. The ship will continue with the journey, and this is what happened on the 15th of last month to this New MV Victoria. The main engines went-off but the problem was fixed in a few minutes,” the ship’s captain, Eng Bombele Ng’wita said in an interview last week.
According to him, the first thing passengers think when the ship experiences technical fault is dipping, which isn’t as easy as many think.
“I agree that ships do sink, but not due to engine shut-down. There are causes for ship sinking, including alcohol consumption by the captain and failure to control it. The drunken captain might also get asleep and let the ship go in the wrong direction, hit the rock and get capsized,” he said.
Sometimes the ship might go the wrong direction as a result of technical faults wherein the captain loses control. Even serious winds can lead into the wrong direction, but still all those aren’t reasons for ship dipping, stressed captain Ng’wita.
He further said that once the ship hits a rock and gets damaged to the extent of allowing in a huge amount of water, it might lead into sinking, but in slow motion according how it gets heavy.
“But, apart from the rescuing tools in the ship, all motor vessels, including this New MV Victoria Hapa Kazi Tu are equipped with effective communication means for quick help before the ship goes down,” he said, adding that another reason for the ship to sink is when there are high- jumping strong waves, with a big amount of water getting in.
However, with this situation, sinking might be possible only if the ship’s compartments are communicating, meaning that the water gets in through where the waves hit, and penetrates to other compartments.
If no compartments’ communication, then it will take a long time for the in-flowing water (caused by strong waves) to fill the ship and make it heavy to sink as it is only a single compartment, which accommodates water.
It means then in-flowing water will be contained in one compartment until the ship reaches its destination, said the captain, affirming “that is how MV Victoria is constructed. No communication between compartments. It also undergoes regular service/ maintenance to observe, fix and prevent any possible problem. Hence, Tanzanians should have nothing to worry about.”
Marine Services Company Limited (MSCL) Acting Marketing and Commercial Manager Mr Philemon Bagambilana commented that some technical errors in the ship have been taken as an advantage by some people to try tarnishing the image of such a newly rehabilitated MV Mwanza Hapa Kazi Tu.
“But all these are competitions in the business arena between road and marine means of transport, despite the fact that we aren’t making business but serving Tanzanians, at affordable costs and in a comfortable and convincing environment. Our transport charges are down, the situation that seemed to jeopardise the business of those who call us competitors,” said Mr Bagambilana.
Despite the so called competition, he added, people seemed preferring marine to road transport, as New MV Victoria ferries not less than 1,200 passengers per trip, in this high season (October to December), a number that should be carried by almost six buses (60 per bus). In a low season, the number is between 300 and 400.
Coming to cargo transportation, said Mr Bagambilana, the rates are flat for New MV Victoria, 27,000/- per tonne. A businessman Mr Sheni Msanja commented that the presence of the MV Victoria is not only a relief for traders but also the final consumers.
He said that high costs of road transportation before the ship resumed its operations, was forcing them to set high prices for goods.
“Sometimes some important goods went missing in the market as a result of an increase in transport charges, especially during the rainy season, with vehicle owners claiming an increase in running costs as some roads got damaged by rain,” he said.
According to him, there is a big difference between road and marine transportation as he currently pays only 800,000/- per 25 tonnes for ship transportation compared to 2.2m/- per 25 tonnes he paid for road transport in the past.