People of Likoma District have asked government to provide alternative and affordable transport following the withdrawal for routine service of the islandâ€™s main travel vessel, MV Ilala for two months now.
A group of concerned people from the island district observed that the situation is dire because people have resorted to risking their lives by going on boats that are not built to the standard required for carrying passengers.
Early this month, about 100 passengers escaped a potentially fatal accident when the boat they were travelling in developed a mechanical fault and got stranded on Lake Malawi for three hours.
The Malawi Shipping Company (MSC) on July 19 announced that it had withdrawn the MV Ilala from service as requested by the Marine Department.
The development meant about 9 000 inhabitants of Likoma District which comprises Likoma and Chizumulu islands risk being completely cut off from the mainland.
In a statement made available to The Nation, the islanders are also questioning the concession government and MSC signed.
“What sort of concession allows complete withdrawal of this essential service without putting in place a similar alternative service considering that some people are totally dependent on it?” questions James Mphonde, the concerned islanders chairperson.
Due to the unavailability of the MV Ilala, many businesspeople are not bringing supplies such as food stuff to Likoma, leading to trebled sky-rocketing of foodstuff, argues Mphonde.
“For instance, because Admarc is unable to transport maize to the islands, whatever little maize is being ferried to the islands by the available transport is currently selling at K7 800 per 50kg bag [K156 per kg while in other markets the maize is selling at K60 per kg],” he said.
Last week, Minister of Transport and Public Works Muhammad Sidik Mia, in his presentation during the 100 days of President Joyce Banda in office, said MSC will start assembling a new passenger vessel in October this year.