The cabinet intervened again to solve the ongoing problem of floating hotels, as the River Transport Authority has wanted to stipulate that the hotels be pulled out of the water onto dry docks so as to ensure their suitability for navigation.
In its meeting last week, the cabinet allowed floating hotels to use underwater filming to ensure their safety, instead of dry dock inspections.
There are no dry docks in the country big enough to lift large-load ships in the country, nor are there specialised workshops for this purpose, Nagy Erian, the deputy chairperson of the Tourism Facilities Chamber at the Egyptian Federation of Chambers of Tourism, told Daily News Egypt.
He noted that lakes in Egypt do not include dry docks or workshops dedicated to that type of inspection, adding that there is no safe means to lift the boat in unspecialised workshops. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Transport, represented by the River Transport Authority, clung to its decision to lift hotel boats onto dry docks for inspection.
Former prime minister Ibrahim Mehleb had previously intervened to solve the dispute between the authority and floating hotels, enabling the later to carry out underwater filming inspections.
Erian said that lifting the hotels onto dry docks would be very expensive, at a cost exceeding EGP 300,000—a sum most hotels cannot afford now amid the stagnation of the tourism sector.
He urged the government to abandon international law—which states that floating hotels must be inspected on dry docks every five years—as Egypt enjoys an abundance of river water and lakes, which provides alternatives, such as underwater filming inspections and maintenance.
He pointed out that oil pumps and ports are inspected the same way and called upon the government to follow the same protocol for inspecting floating hotels. He noted that cooperation could be held between filming companies in ports of Port Said and Suez.
Dry docks inspections are a protocol followed worldwide to ensure the safety of vessels, explained Mohamed Farouk, head of the Navigation Licensing Department at the River Transport Authority.
“We cannot bypass the law when it comes to saving lives,” he noted. “We cannot endanger the lives of tourists.”
He added that there are 282 tourist boats working, yet only 180 are licensed.
All insurance companies stipulate valid licences to renew insurance on ships, vessels, and floating hotels, said Ayman Nassif, member of the Ship Bodies Insurance Committee of the Insurance Federation of Egypt and head of the Ships Insurance Department at the Suez Canal Insurance Company.
He added that obtaining navigation licences for floating hotels proves they are safe to operate. He wondered why this licence does not suffice for the Egyptian Authority for Maritime Safety (EAFMS).
He noted that conducting an underwater filming inspection fulfils the purpose of proving safety and would be accepted by insurance companies to renew floating hotel licences, if the EAFMS approves it.
A source at the Inspection Department at the EAFMS told Daily News Egypt that the authority is not responsible for inspecting river vessels or floating hotels, as its scope of work is limited to inspected sea vessels.