Traffic between the ports of Mwanza in Tanzania and Port Bell in Uganda is on the rise following the refurbishment of marine vessel (MV) Kaawa. This affirms the ever increasing need for water infrastructure.
Managed by the Rift Valley Railways (RVR), MV Kaawa has so far made five round trips between the ports of Mwanza and Port Bell.
The largely unexploited water transport is seen as a major solution to the inefficient and expensive road network. But water infrastructure projects have either always delayed or never taken off, making transport a major bottleneck to doing business in the region.
Sammy Gachuhi, the RVR country general manager said: "MV Kaawa is an added advantage as a supplement to railway performance.
It has boosted trade with the East African Community by opening up Uganda directly to Tanzania. It also provides opportunity to trade through Kisumu, the second most important city after Kampala on the greater Lake Victoria basin."
Gachuhi said MV Kaawa links the railway to Mwanza and Bukoba (Tanzania) to Entebbe, Port Bell and Jinja in Uganda. This is a start to a more balanced cargo routing and East Africa integration, which is the way forward to economic development.
The vessel has a capacity of 1,100 gross tonnes and is already breaking well in the southern route.
Firms using MV Kaawa are Bakhresa, Equator Shipping Line and Mukwano. For last two months, the firms shipped electric poles, wheat grains, maize and tobacco between Tanzania and Uganda.
Maize exporter Henry Kabugo is excited about the opportunities MV Kaawa has opened by size and scope carried by the vessel.
"Kaawa came on board at just the right time (during the maize harvest season). I have been exporting about 500 tonnes of maize per trip, which is half of my ship load. Kaawa has opened up market in Mwanza for us maize exporters and also for other business men."
There are reports that MV Pamba will also be rehabilitated to further boost the alternative southern corridor.
This will boost trade along this route and improve social, economic and political integration through increased access to markets.
As a major concessionaire undertaking infrastructure in the region, RVR has embarked on a five-year turnaround programme starting this year.These include rehabilitation of 365 wagons through a Germany loan and overhaul of eight locomotives that will significantly improve RVR's efficiency.
To date, over 97 wagons have been overhauled at the Nalukolongo Railway workshop and work on locomotive overhaul has commenced.
The replacement of 70km of rail between Mombasa and Nairobi in Kenya has started, 17km completed so far. The other is the repair of nine major culverts between Busembatia and Jinja in Uganda, which has registered 70% of work progress.