Residents of Bunyoro and WestNile regions celebrated the resumption of the free ferry services between the two regions. MV Albert Nile 1, a UNRA ferry that plies the Wanseko-Panyimur route resumed operations on, December 22, 2021.
Following the rising water levels which led to flooding on lakes and rivers in Uganda in May 2020, ferry operations across Wanseko Buliisa District and Panyimur in 1 Pakwach District were halted to allow the water levels reduce and to guarantee safety of ferry users along this crossing. The landing sites were submerged when the Lake Albert shoreline at Wanseko shifted by more than 600 meters into the town center. This prompted UNRA to ground the vessel in June 2020.
It was this act of nature that paved the way for the identification and construction of alternative temporary landing sites that provide the ferry with supportive docking points with the view of ensuring safety and easing the movement of passengers, goods and services.
Presiding over the resumption of the Panyimur-Wanseko ferry services yesterday, Hon. Fred Jachan Omach, the UNRA Board Chairman, revealed that the remaining two of the four acres of land at Panyimur Landing Site of Albert Nile in Packwach District will be used to put up offices and accommodation facilities for staff. Two acres were submerged by the rising water levels.
Representing the UNRA Executive Director, the acting Director, Road Infrastructure Protection, John Bosco Ssejemba said, we are excited that MV Albert Nile 1 operations have resumed. We are aware that the ferry was enabling trade, access to health care, agriculture, security operations, to mention but a few. Therefore, we have been working tirelessly to restore the services.”
The UNRA ferry, MV Albert Nile 1, transports 250 passengers each day and 168,000 annually. It has 300 floats and emergency boats for evacuation purposes in case of an accident. The double-deck ferry also has flush toilets, and a labour room in the eventuality of pregnancy related emergencies.
It should be noted that the UNRA ferry is a critical enabler of the oil sector. The Hoima – Wanseko road that is supported by the ferry, is enabler of the Tilenga Total upstream project oil production project and Total feeder pipeline project. The Ugandan Parliament passed the East African
Crude Oil Pipeline [EACOP] Special Provisions Bill, 2021, paving the way for development and implementation of the much anticipated oil project. The passing of the law is a big step forward for Uganda which hopes to attract over $20on worth of investments in the oil industry and create over 200,000 jobs during the construction phase of the pipeline. UNRA’s roads, bridges and ferry infrastructure is ready to support and enable the success of this oil project. The restoration of the ferry services will boost trade between the districts of Buliisa. and Packwach, the West Nile and Bunyoro regions, as well as between Uganda and DR Congo.
Rwot Charkes Ombidi III, the Paramount Chief of Ker Panyimur Kwonga Chiefdom, expressed his gratitude to President Museveni’s Government for the free ferry services, which he said would ease transport and communication between West Nile and the Bunyoro region. He added that the ferry had done tremendous work for the local community, reducing the number of deaths on the lake and the cost of transport. ‘UNRA, you care, Rwot Charles concluded..
Travelers seen boarding the ferry Peters Openjtho, the Mayor of Panyimur Town Council, said, the collapse of the free UNRA ferry services had made transport across the lake difficult and led to an increase in fares from Shs3,000 to Shs30,000, and sometimes Shs50,000. Consequently, he went on to explain, people had resorted to using improvised means such as locally made boats, leading to loss of lives and property.
“We shall enjoy Christmas and the New Year, because of the hard work of UNRA,’, Peters remarked.
UNRA is committed to ensuring the prosperity of communities through the provision of world class road, bridges and ferry infrastructure.