Zanzibar government has said the Seagull Sea Transport ferry boat involved in last week’s tragedy in which more than 100 people died was travelling longer distances than allowed.
The second vice president, Ambassador, Seif Ali Iddi revealed this when addressing the press yesterday.
He said the two ships, Skagit and Karama, which were built in the United States of America, were meant to operate as ferry boats with a capacity of traveling short distances of not more than seven kilometres.
“They were not meant to carry passengers on long distances. But the two boats have since their registration in the country in October last year, been carrying passengers from the mainland to Zanzibar,” said the second vice president, adding: “Until it sank, MV Skagit had remained with only two years of operational life.”
Following the tragedy and the history of the ships, the isles government has banned MV Karama from operating.
The second vice president who was briefing the press on the development of the rescue operation of the July 18th tragedy said the Seagull Sea Transport limited bought the two ships and registered them in Zanzibar on October 25, last year.
Regarding resignation of the Transport minister, the Ambassador Iddi said the decision remains in the hands of the minister himself.
“Resignation is a personal matter. Let us leave it to him,” he stressed.
But the second vice president said the government of Zanzibar has formed a probe team to investigate the matter.
He said among the passengers were 17 foreign nationals including Belgians, Americans, Germana, Dutch and Israelis.
He said efforts to trace the whereabouts of the ship have proved unsuccessful even after divers descended 48 metres down.
“We are still making efforts to locate the ship,” he said.
He called on people who have lost their loved ones to report to police stations, street leaders, local government leaders, in the mainland and Zanzibar. He said Zanzibar government will soon amend marine transport laws and set new standards for ships that operate in the country.
“Our new law will have strong conditions including instructing people bringing ships to ensure that they can operate for more than 15 years,” said ambassador Iddi, stressing: “We don’t want Zanzibar turned into a dumping ground for dilapidated ships. We have decided to pass the Marine Act for that purpose.”
Skagit was carrying 290 passengers including 31 children, nine crews when it sank. As of yesterday 73 dead bodies had been recovered including 17 children, 37 women and 19 men.
According to second vice president, 72 people have not been seen since the day of the accident and that the government has decided to bury those who will be found at Kama cemetery.
Meanwhile police have said the owner of the ship, and captains are expected to appear before the court today (Tuesday) following the sinking of the ship, MV. Skagit.
Speaking to this paper, the Police Commissioner, Mussa Ali Mussa the force was continuing with investigation and already the file has been handed over to the Zanzibar Director of Public Prosecution (DPP).
The accused are the captain Mussa Makame Mussa, the owner Said Abdulrahman and the manager Omar Hassan Mkonje.
Meanwhile divers have said efforts to trace the ship failed for lack of a facility known as ‘Flash diver’ which is used to sense equipments made of iron or aluminum under the sea.
The facility according to the divers cannot be found in the East Africa.
“Rescue teams both from the mainland and Zanzibar have no such facilty, making it difficult to trace the ship which has sank deeper due to the strong Zanzibar current,” said one of the divers Ali Ramadhani.
The President of the People’s Republic of China Hu Jintao has sent a condolence message to President Jakaya Kikwete following last Wednesday’s Zanzibar passenger ferry tragedy at Chumbe Island near Unguja Island.
The President said in a press statement issued yesterday by the Chinese Embassy in Dar es Salaam that he was shocked to learn about MV Skagit ferry accident that happened on July 18 this year.
“The accident has resulted into great causalities in Tanzania. During this grieving moment, I wish to extend, on behalf of the Chinese government and people my sincere condolences to those dismissed and their families”, he noted.
Meanwhile reports received as we went to press said the President of Zanzibar , Dr Ali Mohamed Shein has appointed Rashid Seif Suleiman minister for Communication and Infrastructure, following resignation of Hamad Masoud Hamad yesterday over the sinking of mv Skagit.
Suleiman was a member of the House of Representatives Ziwani constituency under a CUF ticket.