Kenya takes the lead in revival of Northern corridor marine vessels

Uganda and Kenya have started works on the countries major marine vessels; MV Uhuru in Kenya and MV Kaawa and MV Pamba in Uganda in a bid to revitalize the Northern corridor route on Lake Victoria.

MV Uhuru, together with MV Umoja in Tanzania, MV Kaawa, MV Kabalega and MV Pamba in Uganda were part of the East African Railways, a subsidiary of the Royal Mail Services.

Before June 2018, only MV Umoja was operational, transporting goods across borders. Pamba and Kaawa were grounded, and Uhuru had been neglected at Port Florence, Kisumu in Kenya.

East African Railways also had a steamship called SS Sybil.  The Ugandan Vessels stopped operations as soon as government contracted Rift Valley Railways to take over operations from Uganda Railways Corporation.

However, the Rift Valley Railways contract was terminated in 2017 and Uganda Railways Corporation – URC was brought back to work.

Uganda Railways Corporation started with revamping Port Bell and MV Kaawa.   Currently, Kaawa takes Cargo to Mwanza Port in Tanzania while Kabalega remains sunken between islands of Kuye and Bukasa in Kalangala after a head-on collision with MV Kaawa in May 2005, damaging its Ballistic tanks and hull. The vessel later capsized.

Government is still drawing plans of repairing MV Pamba, which remains grounded at Port Bell. It also plans to dispose of MV Kabalega the way it is, beneath waters close to Kisaba Landing site on Bukasa Island.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected in Kisumu tomorrow ahead of the launch of the revival of the operations of MV Uhuru, one of the Marine Vessels (Rail Wagons) that transport cargo across borders through the Northern Corridor, MV Uhuru is currently on a dry docking site undergoing repairs at Port Florence in Kisumu, Kenya.

The launch of operations of MV Uhuru will be part of the process to revamp marine and railway transport in the East African region, one of the components of the East African Protocol.  Currently, Uganda is drawing plans for constructing a railway line the SGR project. And so is Tanzania. Kenya has already finished part of the SGR from Mombasa to Nairobi.

Charles Ruzigye, the Communications officer of the Uganda Railways Corporation says the government of Uganda is also undertaking tasks in the renovation of Port bell. Ruzigye says that the government is also planning on revamping MV Pamba on the floating dock at Port bell so as to improve the efficiency of the water transport network.

MV Uhuru and MV Pamba, just like MV Kaawa in Uganda and MV Umoja will be transporting goods from Port Florence – Kisumu to Port Bell, Kampala and Mwanza Tanzania.

Last year, Engineer Aggrey Ojiambo, a Marine engineer at Port Bell told Uganda Radio Network that it requires government up to $5 million (about Shs 19 billion) to repair and upgrade MV Pamba which has been grounded for more than 15-years.

What remains a mystery is how to clearly explain to the Ugandan Population, especially the business community how important the Northern Corridor is to the success of their businesses.

Issa Ssekitto the spokesperson of the Kampala City Traders Association says transporting goods using Marine Vessels and rail wagons from Kisumu and Mwanza to Kampala will depend on the costs of transportation and the time used to deliver the goods in Kampala.

“Those are paramount issues to look at while choosing the mode of transporting goods to their final destination,” Ssekitto said.

Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania transport goods through water and rail transport in the region’s congested Northern Economic Corridor. Freight transport across Lake Victoria is undertaken on an ad hoc basis and vessels sail only when full. This approach has economic and opportunity costs for businesses, particularly those working with time-sensitive cargo.

Of the three countries, Uganda is the only landlocked country. The other countries Kenya and Tanzania have seaports in Mombasa and Dar el Salaam.