M.V. BUKOBA – THE SEQUEL

The report of the judicial commission investigating the loss of the MV Bukoba, which sank in Lake Victoria with the loss of 700 lives last May (TA No 55) was published on September 6 and spread the blame widely – the Tanzania Railways corporation’s Marine Division for operating the vessel without due care (it had a long-standing stability problem yet on its final voyage it was overloaded, there was improper storage of cargo and inadequate ballasting); the division was said to have been characterised by gross negligence , inefficiency and corruption; the government was blamed for buying a defective ship (although this was partially because of a lack of expertise on the Tanzanian side and the crisis in Lake shipping caused by the collapse at the time of the East African community’s Lake steamer services; this had placed Tanzania in a weak bargaining position with the suppliers); and the Belgian shipbuilders (BSC) for supplying a vessel which did not correspond to the specifications and for not giving the users adequate guidelines on the extremely delicate handling the ship required. The report also described as ‘regrettable’ the failure of the Belgian government to finance promised rehabilitation work on the ship. The Belgian government has since refused to pay compensation to the victims stating that the shipbuilders (who are believed to have gone out of business) were responsible. But the matter remained under discussion in the Belgian parliament.

The Director of Public Prosecutions announced on November 27 that criminal charges were being prepared against a number of people in connection with the tragedy.

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