According to the latest reports, Zanzibar government is reluctant to purchase a new, state of the art ferry to allow islanders travelling between Unguja and Pemba islands a safe means to reach their destinations. The MV Spice Islander sunk a few weeks ago as a result of badly placed cargo and massive overloading, leaving over 200 travelers dead in the water and, according to reports from Zanzibar, many others still missing, thought to be trapped inside the sunken ship. Local media quoted a source from the islands to have put the number of casualties at 265. The wreck though is in deep waters and specialized deep sea divers initially brought in from South Africa to ascertain the number of people still trapped were unable to reach the sunken ferry due to lack of suitable equipment and very bad weather.
Zanzibar’s president Ali Mohamed Shein has reportedly put the price tag for a new ferry at 40 billion Tanzania Shillings, money the island government apparently either does not have or is not willing to spend, considering demands for other services which must be funded. A formal investigation into the accident is now underway and is expected to last several weeks, during which company records will be examined and eye witness statements heard in open sessions. A regular source from Dar es Salaam added his thoughts: ‘If government in Zanzibar cannot pay for a new ferry, which is the only means of safe transport between the islands and to the mainland, maybe they could consider a joint venture by bringing private investors to team up with them? They could advertise a concession to operate inter-island transport on their behalf but for sure fares would be much higher. Anyone running a privately-financed ferry service will need to generate income to pay loans and here government could come in with cheap financing options. Business has to continue, people need to cross the ocean for trade, family affairs, tourists want to cross to Pemba, so telling people to be patient is not a good thing. They should be able to cater for such emergencies and not give the impression it will take years to sort this out’.