Minister for Infrastructure and Communication, Mr Hamad Masoud Hamad

The Zanzibar government yesterday refused to stand as guarantor for Zanzibar Shipping Corporation (ZSC) which is planning to purchase a USD 26 million-passenger ship from South Africa to improve marine transport services.

The government stand was announced by Zanzibar Minister of Infrastructure and Communications Hamad Masoud Hamad, in the House of Representatives when winding up discussions on a report on technical problems facing marine transport services.

ZSC applied for a loan to purchase the ship from South Africa but the minister said the price of the vessel was too high and that the government cannot afford it.

He said the government received a request from ZSC to be a   guarantor to enable it to purchase the ship, but “we failed to provide the guarantee to ZSC because the price was over and above our financial capability.”

He explained that the government was aware that there were no reliable marine transport services between Pemba and Unguja Islands, made worse by the sinking of MV Spice Islanders on September 10, last year.

According to the minister, conditions attached to the purchase were too stringent. The corporation was required to pay up the money within 10 months after signing the purchase contract.

He however said that the government was working on strategies to get a ship in order to solve the transport problems affecting the Pemba and Unguja residents.

He said negotiations were going on between the government and some companies from Turkey, China, and Korea, adding that the government had asked some ship-manufacturing companies —from Japan, Korea, Turkey, Sweden and South Africa, to submit proposals on cost estimates and manufacturing timeframe.

“We got one company which is ready to build a ship for us at the cost of  UDS 31m, which is cheaper compared to the used one which ZSC wanted to purchase from South Africa,” said minister Hamad.

The minister stressed that the government did not refuse to guarantee ZSC “in bad faith” but avoided misuse of public resources, considering that there were chances to purchase the ship at low cost.

Earlier, contributing to the report, Chake Chake Representative, Ali Omar Shehe, pressed the government to provide detailed explanation on its refusal to guarantee ZSC in purchasing the ship, taking into account the suffering of Zanzibaris after the travel ban imposed on MV Seagull in December, last year.

Presenting the committee’s views, the Chairman of the House Communication and Infrastructure Committee, Rashid Seif Suleiman, expressed dismay over the lack of seriousness on the part of the government in finding a lasting solution to the marine transport problems in the Isles.

“If there is seriousness, true commitment, good plans, and close follow up and prioritisation, these problems would be resolved…and we will be able to purchase a new ship at the right time,” Suleiman said.

Since state-owned ship, MV Mapinduzi capsized some years back and MV Maendeleo experienced technical faults, marine transport services have become a big headache in Zanzibar.

By Mwinyi Sadallah, The Guardian

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