Africa-Press – South-Africa. Government has initiated discussions with a British company, Direx Solutions, to retrieve MV Kabalega, which sank in Lake Victoria 16 years ago, Daily Monitor has established.MV Kabalega, which is a train wagon ferry, sank in the lake after colliding with MV Kaawa on May 8, 2005.At the time the collision occurred, MV Kabalega, which was loaded with goods such as fuel, was headed to Port Bell in Uganda while the MV Kaawa was headed to Tanzania’s port of Mwanza.MV Kaawa’s bow was damaged but its crew managed to return it to Port Bell.
MV Kabalega sank about 150 feet between Kuye Islands in Mazinga Sub-county and Bukasa in Kyamuswa Sub-county, Kalangala District.This comes after the National Environment Management Authority executive director, Dr Tom Okurut, last week expressed concern that the fuel tankers containing more than 30,000 litres of diesel, which sank with MV Kabalega, could burst and spill fuel in Lake Victoria.
ProgressA source at the Ministry of Works and Transport said last week that a delegation from Direx Solutions has already met Ministry officials to work out modalities of retrieving MV Kabalega.
“Both our technical and political leadership are excited about this development and if discussions succeed, it will save us from procuring a new train wagon ferry, which is expensive,” the source that preferred anonymity in order to speak freely about the behind the scene discussions, said during an interview last week.If the discussions between government and Direx Solutions succeed, the source said the former will enter a concession with the latter to retrieve MV Kabalega, repair it and manage it for an agreed period of time to recover its investment.
Under the same planned concession, the investor is expected to improve facilities at both Port Bell, Luzira and Port Jinja, and put additional rail commuter routes to lessen congestion in and around Kampala. The investor is also expected to set up a factory to manufacture concrete sleepers, which will be used during the revival of the old meter- gauge railway line from Kampala to Kasese. This rail track is expected to open up the western part of the country and also provide a direct rail link to the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Official speaks outOutgoing State Minister for Transport Joy Kabatsi confirmed the development but added that the discussions are still at initial stages.“It is true we are thinking about retrieving MV Kabalega; it is in our plan but we have not concluded with those who have the expertise to do the work, ,we have sought the guidance of His Excellency the President and if he gives a go ahead, the negotiations will proceed,” she said at the weekend.
Government had earlier ruled out the possibility of retrieving MV Kabalega and during the Financial Year 2008/2009, the Finance minister Ezra Suruma said they had earmarked Shs14b for procuring a new ferry. However, this plan never materialised.
Ms Kabatsi said if MV Kabalega is retrieved, it will boost movement of cargo from Port Bell to Kisumu and Mwanza. “What I know about Direx Solutions it that it is highly regarded internationally for its expertise in logistics and in particular, for railway related projects,” she said.“If we finalise with them [Direx Solutions], they will also help us set up new and permanent facilities at Jinja Port, which will form the basis for a thriving shipyard repair and maintenance services for the future,” she added.In all these planned projects, Direx Solutions will have to work with the National Enterprise Corporation, the development arm of Uganda People’s Defense Forces.
Mr Peter Meyer, the finance director of Direx Solutions, confirmed having already met Ministry of Works officials over the deal.“However , we have not yet reached any agreement and I am yet to return to Uganda for more discussions and possibly meet the President ,” he said by telephone.