Experts: Lake Victoria unsafe for navigation
Saturday, May 25, 2002
The East African Standard (Nairobi, Kenya). By Newton Nyaranga
Marine experts yesterday declared Lake Victoria unsafe for navigation.
They warned of a major disaster and urged for urgent measures by the three East African states to streamline operations in the waters.
Of grave concern is the lack of effective infrastructure and a centre to co-ordinate radio communication, search and rescue operations.
Captains operating in the lake said it was in total disarray due to collapsed infrastructure and lack of effective marine regulations. The experts were speaking in Kisumu to the Task Force on Review of Maritime Laws.
They decried the state of navigational aids which they described as unreliable.
The experts also cited charts used in the water body saying they were outdated having been drawn in 1909. "It is just by the grace of God that we manage to manoeuvre ships in this lake, if something is not done, we could see another disaster like that of MV Bukoba," said Captain Joseph Oduor.
Oduor said the lake's lighting system had collapsed making it difficult for them to navigate, especially during the night. He added that most ships in the lake lacked radios, which are a must for any seafarer.
adding that even those available are not effective from the high seas.
The sentiments were supported by Col John Onyango from the Kenya Navy, who said there was an urgent need to address the grievances as well as set up an effective regulatory body.
"We could have averted the MV Bukoba disaster if those responsible did their work and the right equipment put in place to safeguard life. We do not wish to see a repeat of such a disaster," said Onyango.
He said navigation charts needed to be reviewed after every five years because of the persistent changes in the ecosystem.
"If you don't know what you are sailing over in the lake, you would rather not take your vessel to the sea as this will not only be a risk to the vessel, but also to your life," he said.
Onyango also said it was high time operators in the lake complied with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) regulations, adding that no seafarer is supposed to go to the lake without the necessary communication equipment.