Mwanza — Tenders for the purchase of a new passenger vessel to ply between the Lake Victoria ports of Mwanza and Bukoba will be opened next month, as the old vessels are in different stages of massive rehabilitation.
The Acting General Manager of Marine Services Company Ltd (MSCL), Mr Benedict Hamisi, said yesterday that the opening of the tenders will signal a preamble to the assembling of a brand new and specialized vessel that will improve maritime transportation in Africa's biggest lake.
"We will open the tenders on 12th June, as one of the decisive steps towards implementing a pledge made by then candidate John Magufuli, during the 2015 General Election campaign," he said.
He recalled that, as candidate on a Chama Cha Mapinduzi ticket, Dr Magufuli had pledged that, if he were to emerge victorious and become Head of State, he would be instrumental in facilitating the purchase of a new vessel with a capacity of 1,200 passengers.
According to Mr Hamisi, apart from the envisaged purchase of a new vessel, the government had also invested heavily in the rehabilitation of Mv Victoria, Mv Butiama and Mv Liemba, to improve services in Lakes Victoria and Tanganyika.
He could not specify how much money would be spent on the rehabilitation work, but hinted that funds for the project had been included in the 2017/2018 national budget.
Yesterday, the Mwanza Regional Commissioner, Mr John Mongela, led hundreds of residents at the 21st remembrance event for nearly 1,000 passengers who perished after Mv Bukoba had sunk near Mwanza Port in 1996.
The commemoration was held at Igoma cemetery on the outskirts of the Rock City where some of the deceased persons were buried.
Addressing the audience, Mr Mongela said although the horrific event was consistently receding into history, it had produced vital lessons that the authorities were keen to grasp as pointers for avoiding similar tragedies in future.
One of them, he explained, was the establishment of the Surface and Marine Transportation Authority (SUMATRA) which is charged with ensuring that maritime transportation was safe and secure for all.
"But we all have the responsibility of making sure that this country remains safer place to live in, as we recall tragedies like the one that occurred in Lake Victoria 21 years ago, and as the government works hard to restore and stabilize transportation there," he said.
One of the survivors, Mr Cleophace Herman, made an impassioned plea against deployment of old and dilapidated vessels in the country's lakes, and called for stiff penalties against violators, since negligence threatened the lives of passengers.