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Transmaritima, the main company running a ferry across the Bay of Maputo, has reacted to the inauguration of a suspension bridge over the bay by drastically reducing its services.
Transmaritima has just one ferry plying between central Maputo and the outlying municipal district of Katembe, and the company has decided to operate it only at peak times – from 05.30 to 07.30 and from 16.00 to 20.00. Prior to the inauguration of the bridge, the ferry circulated without interruption from 05.00 to 23.00.
The altered timetable took effect on Wednesday. But Transmaritima did not bother to inform its clients of the change. People who wanted to return from Maputo to Katembe after 20.00 found there was no ferry.
This led a group of angry would-be passengers to walk over the bridge – a dangerous and entirely illegal thing to do. This protest was filmed and shown repeatedly on the independent television station STV.
The main source of income for Transmaritima used to be ferrying vehicles across the bay. But the tolls on the bridge for light vehicles (160 meticais – about 2.7 US dollars) are cheaper than the prices charged by Transmaritima (250 meticais on weekdays, and 300 meticais at weekends). So vehicles stopped using the ferry, which became exclusively a means of transport for pedestrians.
There should have been buses to take passengers from Katembe across the bridge to central and northern Maputo. But, the Maputo municipal bus company failed to publish the routes and timetables for buses across the bridge.
Transmaritima workers, interviewed by the Maputo daily “Noticias”, fear for their jobs. “We don’t carry cars, any more, they all prefer the bridge”, one of them said. “We only carry passengers who live near the quay on the Katembe side”.
Other companies, with smaller boats, “Transportes Boa Viagem” and “Mapapai”, also carry passengers between Maputo and Katembe. They have reacted to competition from the bridge by reducing their fares by a third, from 15 to 10 meticais per person per crossing. It remains to be seen whether this will be enough to save them.