ABOUT 5,000 people drown in Lake Victoria annually. The high fatalities are caused by unstable boats, bad weather, overloading, lack of safety gadgets, poor seamanship, said an expert from the Lake Victoria Basin Commission.
LVBC's Maritime Communication and Safety on Lake Victoria project coordinator Vincent Hagono said search and rescue organisation should be further developed.
Speaking at a one-day special media briefing on LVBC at Golf Hotel in Kakamega, Hagono said safety challenges discourage investment in maritime transport, tourism and water sports.
He added that improving maritime safety is a high priority for the East Africa Community and the LVBC. LVBC, Hagono said, is implementing initiatives such as the Lake Victoria Transport Act, aids to navigation and survey of shipping lanes to address the safety concerns.
"The project entails the establishment of an efficient and effective maritime emergency search and rescue organisation for the lake capable of providing timely assistance to fishing crafts, commuter boats, ships and other vessels in distress," Hagono said.
He said a regional maritime rescue coordination centre will be established at Mwanza, Tanzania. Hagono added that 16 search and rescue stations will be established around the lake.
Three of the stations will be in Kenya, eight in Tanzania and five in Uganda. The stations in Kenya will be located at Kisumu, Wichlum in Bondo and Nyandiwa in Homa Bay.
Some 80 per cent of Lake Victoria's fishing zones have been covered by the project. A pilot emergency response control centre and positioning system was tested in Kampala, he added.
The project is expected to accelerate social-economic development and regional integration. The meeting was attended by LVBC executive secretary Canisius Kanangire, his deputies Patrice Niyongabo and Eugene Muramira.