THE government's efforts to turn Mwanza into a transport and business hub has begun to pay off, with the shipping of petroleum products from the rock city to Port Bell, in Kampala resuming after almost 17 years of lull. Uganda Railways Corporation (URC) on Wednesday received half a million litres of petroleum products through the Mwanza- Port Bell Luzira route, from where Uganda Railways wagons picked it en route to the final destination.
The diesel cargo is seen as a milestone in the promotion of marine transport in the East African region.
"The MV Kaawa ferry docked at Port Bell on Wednesday morning with loaded fuel tanktainers from Mwanza," URC said in a statement.
MV Kaawa is a ferry that is operated by URC on Lake Victoria. Uganda's State Minister for Transport, Fred Byamukama, together with the Director of Transport, Benon Kajuna, officiated at the receipt of the fuel tanktainers at Port Bell in Luzira.
"The two also inspected the rehabilitation works on MV Pamba which are currently at 95 per cent," said the statement, which was also shared on social media.
The diesel cargo is the first in 17 years, and it is seen as a milestone in the promotion of marine transport in the East African region as well as revitalisation of the central corridor route.
Recently, when laying the foundation stone for construction of the Mwanza-Isaka section of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), President Samia Suluhu Hassan affirmed Tanzania's intent to implement all flagship projects, including transport infrastructures to ease transportation of goods and services within and to neighbouring countries.
She stressed that her government's will is to make Mwanza city as hub of trade and transport, thus relieving traders from neighbouring countries from travelling as far as to Dar es Salaam to get goods. Traders could take goods from Mwanza, the city has close links with neighbouring countries of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and DR Congo, to their countries instead of travelling to Dar es Salaam.
"There is no reason for people from neighbouring countries to travel to Dar es Salaam; we want them to get their goods here in Mwanza. This will also make us competitive in the region, and we don't have reason to fail," she stated at the event.
Uganda President Yoweri Museveni and the fifth phase President, the late John Magufuli in 2017 agreed on the revival of marine transport services on Lake Victoria where Tanzania will build another railway ferry on the lake whereas Uganda will among others improve Port Bell and the 11km railway line from Port Bell to Kampala.
The three East African countries of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania agreed to revive the Lake Victoria transport infrastructure which has for many years been neglected yet it has the potential of generating ten times the 6 billion US dollars it generates annually for the three countries combined.
In Lake Victoria, the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) is implementing a number of port projects to exploit to the maximum the potential brought about by the Lake, given the fact that historically Tanzania had, before the collapse of the former East African Community (EAC), established transport links with Uganda and Kenya through the defunct firm- East African Railway Corporation.
To exploit Lake Victoria potential, TPA has invested in the rehabilitation of Mwanza South and Mwanza North ports in Mwanza Region. The rehabilitation of Mwanza South Port involved the reviving of the link span to enable containerised cargo to be transported to Kisumu in Kenya, Port Bell in Uganda or even to Musoma port and Kemondo Bay port in Kagera region by ferry wagons.
Given the length of the coastline of Lake Victoria, TPA through its Mwanza Office resolved to construct new ports and revive the abandoned ones. For instance in Buchosa Council, Sengerema District, TPA built a cluster port (small port) at Kanyala Village, whose operations began last December.