MV Kalangala ferry that plies the Entebbe- Kalangala route is scheduled to suspend its operations over the weekend for routine maintenance over the weekend. In its March 2, 2021 statement, Nation Oil Distributors Ltd- NODL, which operates the ferry, says the vessel “shall be breaking its normal transportation services between Entebbe and Kalangala for approximately a month.”
Sadala Musoke, the Chief Executive Officer NODL, says the service will involve overhauling the engine of the ferry. He explains that the ferry is supposed to have an engine overhaul after every 10,000 running hours. Mantrac Uganda Ltd, the authorized dealer for Caterpillar – (CAT) mechanical and engineering products will conduct the service.
In February last year, Nation Oil Distributors Ltd- NODL suspended the operations of the same ferry to undergo maintenance and repairs in Mwanza, Tanzania. The vessel returned in May but remained grounded until October due to the Coronavirus-COVID-19 restrictions and the need to upgrade its docking piers at Lutoboka in Kalangala and Nakiwogo in Entebbe.
Musoke has advised travelers and business people who ply the route to use MV Ssese and MV Pearl ferries at Bukakata in Masaka. However, this increases the cost for people travelling from Entebbe to Masaka before connecting to Kalangala because they need about Shillings 120,000 on a single trip of over 8 hours. MV Kalangala charges Shillings 10,000 and 14,000 for the ordinary and VIP trips respectively. The trip takes three and a half hours.
With the capacity to carry 100 passengers, 165 tons of cargo and 4 buses, the vessel is one of the major vessels plying from the mainland in Entebbe to Kalangala. It operates one return trip between Entebbe and Kalangala, departing Entebbe daily at 2 pm and returning the next day at 11 am. In comparison, private vessels MV Natalie and MV Vanessa that ply the same route charge Shillings 35,000 Shillings for a single trip to Kalangala and Shillings 70,000 for a return journey during the week.
The vessels also charge Shillings 45,000 for a one-way ticket and Shillings 85,000 for a return journey on weekends. The vessels take an average of one hour and half hours on water because they are speed boats. Meanwhile, local boats charge Shillings 25,000 per trip. The journey is about three and a half hours. David Ssekalye and Lisa Natumanya, both residents of Kalangala, say their movements outside the island district, particularly Kampala will be restricted because of the suspension of MV Kalangala.
Businessmen in Entebbe say MV Kalangala has the capacity to carry more load such as food and logs at a lower cost compared to boats. Some of the business people say they spend about Shillings 40,000 to transport goods on MV Kalangala and close to Shillings 100,000 on boats.
Some of the food vendors, shopkeepers and lodge operators at Nakiwogo, say MV Kalangala drives customer numbers to the area. They note that they don’t make money whenever the ferry suspends its operations.
Herbert Katende, Entebbe Division B LC V councilor and residents want Ministry of Works to provide a second ferry for the route.