Entebbe, Uganda – Two private vessels, MV Vanessa and Nathalie, have resumed operations from Entebbe to Kalangala after being grounded for three months due to travel restrictions imposed to control the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The private vessels, run by Nyanza Evergreen Waterways, both docked at waterfront pier at Entebbe Municipality during the lockdown.
Upon easing the restrictions, MV Nathalie made its first trip on Friday setting off 4 pm from Entebbe to Kalangala with 17 passengers. Travellers were directed to arrive at least two hours before departure to allow enough time for screening and other anti-COVID-19 measures.
On the first day of operations, only those with a body temperature below 38 were allowed to proceed to the booking desk and secure a seat on the vessel.
A female worker, measured body temperatures of each potential passengers at the entrance and thereafter asked those who had gone through the sieve to sanitize their hands.
Passengers are paying 35,000 Shillings for a single trip to Kalangala and 70,000 Shillings for a return journey during the week. The vessel also charges 45,000 Shillings for a one-way ticket and 85,000 Shillings for a return journey on weekends.
Kalangala Deputy Resident District Commissioner Abel Bakunda and David Omongot, the District Animal Husbandry Officer, some of the passengers that used the vessel as it resumed operations, were excited that they can ply the Entebbe-Kalangala route within an hour and 15 minutes instead of the Kampala-Masaka-Kalangala route which takes about 6 hours.
However, Omongot called for the resumption of operations for MV Kalangala which charges the least for the Entebbe-Kalangala route.
The vessel is the only alternative since MV Kalangala is yet to resume operations. This is because the high Lake Victoria levels affected the ship’s docking piers in Entebbe and Kalangala.
Donna Ayebare, the spokesperson Nyanza Evergreen Waterways, says the vessels have to operate at half capacity for passengers to observe social distancing. Both vessels can carry 54 passengers but are now required to carry a maximum of 27 people, who must all wear masks and also sanitise before boarding the high-tech yacht.
Augustine Kibaya, the Operations Manager for both vessels, says it costs about 2.2 million Shillings for each vessel to make a return journey to Entebbe.
Ayebare also explains that the vessel will make only one trip daily until the demand increases. MV Nathalie will now be plying the Entebbe-Kalangala route for one month while MV Vanessa will be on standby to ply routes requested by clients such as companies, among others.