Importers have started opting for water and railway transport for quicker and safer delivery of goods following increased cases of Covid-19 among the truck drivers.
Uganda Railways Corporation delivered a consignment of 1,020,000 litres of fuel for One Petrol Uganda Ltd by ship from Kisumu on Friday.
The managing director of Uganda Railways Corporation, Mr Charles Kateeba, told Daily Monitor that it was their "first ever full commercial consignment".
"The day before yesterday [Friday], we docked a ship in Port Bell with 22 wagons equivalent to 44 trucks with 1,020,000 litres of fuel," he said.
He said the importers will "slowly" learn and get used to water and railways transport.
He said Uganda Railways is planning to bring another ship in three weeks that will increase its capacity to import 13 to 15 million litres of fuel per month.
According to government statistics released in 2017, Ugandans use more than five million litres of fuel every day.
On Friday, the Minister of Trade, Ms Amelia Kyambade, said government would start importing fuel using railway and water transport to reduce the number of cargo truck drivers entering the country.
Ms Kyambade, who was speaking at the launch of a partnership between Jumia Food, UNDP and the National Information Technology Authority to enrol Kampala market food vendors on electronic commerce, said the decision is being implemented to stop the increasing cases of Covid-19.
"Uganda has been hit by Covid-19. This has been felt throughout the economy. People in the informal sector cannot travel or go to the market. To date we have 116 cases, more than 58 have recovered. What has raised our mark are cargo truck drivers. We will use railway to transport our oil from the border," she said.
The Minister of Works and Transport, Gen Katumba Wamala, is expected to table a proposal to the Cabinet meeting today on how to revamp the Uganda Railways and water transport.
Gen Katumba was not available to give details of this proposal. But Mr Kateeba said they are not going to use legislations to force fuel importers to use the railway. "We want the importers to appreciate its convenience."
He said majority of the fuel trucks entering the country belong to individual importers, who buy fuel from the new fuel Jetty in Kisumu operated by the Kenya Pipeline Company which pumps fuel from Mombasa to Kisumu.
He said rather than sending individual trucks, the fuel can be loaded onto the Uganda Railway tanks to railway and ships to the national fuel reserves in Jinja and a private one under construction in Kawuku on Entebbe Road, where they can pick it from.
"Better still, we can deliver it to the Vivo Energy and Total who have railways sidings and they pick from there using road transport. The minister will tomorrow (today) present a paper to Cabinet, where we are requesting for Shs9.5 billion for getting extra locomotives and support our operations in line with Covid-19 demand," he said.
Asked whether it is a viable option, Mr Gilbert Assi, the managing director of Vivo Energy-Uganda, said as long as they can add more wagons and locomotives to their fleet and they have the standard operating procedures in place, they would prefer railway transport because other countries are using it.
"If they can avail enough wagons and locomotives, as a company we have no problem as long as they have enough safety measures...," he said.
By Sunday, Uganda's confirmed cases of the Covid-19 patients had risen to 116 from 101 recorded on Friday morning and majority were truck drivers. drivers.