Zanzibar — FIVE more bodies from the last week's boat accident were retrieved on Sunday, making the death toll reach 73 as people gathered in Zanzibar for special prayers.
The count came as registration of marine vessels in Zanzibar has been faulted as lax and thus creating a loophole for licensing of unseaworthy watercrafts.This follows sinking of two ships in a span of less than a year.
MV Spice Islander sank on September 10, last year followed by MV Skagit that sank on Wednesday, last week.Meanwhile, a number of politicians interviewed yesterday blamed the Zanzibar Maritime Authority (ZMA) for registering boats and ships with questionable safety standards.
"The safety of ships registered in Zanzibar is highly questionable. There is a chain of negligence among responsible leadership," the Chairman of NCCR-Mageuzi and MP, Mr James Mbatia told 'Daily News' in a telephone interview.
According to information available on internet, MV Skagit was designed to carry a maximum of 230 passengers.
The passenger-only ferry and a sister, MV Kalama were constructed in 1989 at Halter Marine in New Orleans, Louisiana in the United States of America.
The original design of the boats was based on vessels that serviced off-shore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. An extra deck of superstructure was added to accommodate additional passengers. The Civic United Front (CUF) Chairman, Prof Ibrahim Lipumba, took issue with modification of the boat which he said could have been among factors for its sinking.
"It is important that registration of ships is done after their safety have been thoroughly scrutinized. Since the boat was said to have undergone some modification then it is possible its stability was affected," Prof Lipumba said.
Reached for comment yesterday, Deputy Minister for Transport, Dr Charles Tizeba, said Zanzibar had its own procedures of registering ships and thus could not go into details over the matter.
"Zanzibar conducts its business in accordance to its constitution, if there is anything on that matter they should be the ones to comment. The only thing I know is that the licence for the ill-fated ship was to expire next month," he said.
He, however, told the National Assembly that Zanzibar was using "open law" which allows ships to operate regardless of its age while Tanzania Mainland was governed by "close law" which restricts ships whose age is beyond 20 years.
The Deputy Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Ms Pauline Gekul (Special Seats-CHADEMA), blamed what she described as mismanagement in registration of ships by ZMA.
"It is high time authorities looked into registration of ships. It is also apparent that no routine inspections have been carried on ships registered in Zanzibar," she told 'Daily News' in a telephone interview.
Mr Mbatia noted that whereas water remained the safest and cheapest mode of transport elsewhere, its safety and reliability has remained questionable."In water transport there is what is called known-risk and known and unforeseen risk. This was a known-risk caused by negligence by those responsible," he said.
He also called for establishment of a risk management unit in the Prime Minister's Office that would be charged with responding to such disasters.
In a separate interview, Prof Lipumba also expressed concerns on what he said was poor response to disasters by responsible authorities.
"Had we had in place proper rescue and response teams we could have saved a lot of lives that were lost. By the time the ship capsized it could have been pulled to shallow waters," he said.The Washington State is said to have sold MS Skagit and its sister to Tanzania at a total cost of 400,000 US dollars (approximately 640m/-).
Reports have it that the ferries had been docked and inactive since September 2009. The two ferries had been sold to a boat broker in Port Coquitlam, B.C., which sold them to Tanzania. They were sold far below the 900,000 US dollars, value the state said they were worth in December 2009.
The Washington State had hoped to sell the two 112-foot boats locally, but when that failed, it placed them for auction on eBay, asking for 300,000 US dollars each, with no success. The ferries were built in New Orleans and purchased in 1989 for 5 million US dollars.
Meanwhile President Jakaya Kikwete and Zanzibar President Dr Ali Mohamed Shein led hundreds of mourners including leaders and relatives of the victims of the last Wednesday's accident at the prayers.The prayers to remember those who died and got injured in the MV Skagit accident were held at Mushawar Mosque, Mwembeshauri area in Zanzibar.
"This is the time of grief, we need to show love to the victims and the dead by praying for them," said Sheikh Omar Kabi, Mufti of Zanzibar.Other leaders who attended the prayers included the Vice-President, Dr Mohammed Gharib Bilal, Zanzibar Second Vice-President, Ambassador Seif Ali Idd, and former Zanzibar President Amani Abeid Karume.
Also Chief Kadhi of Zanzibar Sheikh Khamis Haji, Zanzibar Speaker Mr Pandu Ameir Kificho, Urban-West Regional Commissioner Mr Abdalla Mwinyi Khamis, Ministers, Legislators, and other leaders from both Zanzibar and union government.