The plenary sitting of the Chamber of Deputies held virtually on Monday, July 26, adopted the relevance of the new draft law governing land and waterways transport in Rwanda. The bill will then be scrutinised by a responsible parliamentary committee.
The draft legislation which was tabled by Claver Gatete, the Minister of Infrastructure, seeks to address the legal gaps in the existing laws and regulating sub-sectors that were not catered for in the current law such as passenger and goods transport, railway as well as waterways transport, Gatete said while explaining its relevance.
For railway, Gatete said, currently there exists no law governing railway in Rwanda and yet, the development in railway sector put forth by the Government of Rwanda requires having regulatory and institutional framework in place.
This draft law addresses challenges related to institutional arrangement for railway development, operation and maintenance.
It also provides for training in railway and licensing as well as offences, faults, penalties and sanctions related to the operation of railways. This, Gatete observed, will expedite railway development in Rwanda.
In addition, there is no law governing waterways transport in the country - otherwise known as maritime transport.
Among other provisions, the bill provides for the training to ensure safety of persons and cargo.
Regarding waterways transport, the bill proposes, among other things, that organs involved in operations of waterways ensure sufficient and efficient staff, to guarantee safety of persons and cargo.
In consultation with the Minister [in charge of transport], the Minister in charge of education is responsible for the development of the training curriculum and determines modalities for its execution.
The authority in charge of safety in waterways assesses a trained person who wishes to obtain a certificate of competency and issues a certificate of competency to a successful candidate.
Also, it provides that a person who intends to carry out port operation must obtain a license from the regulator.
The regulator determines requirements for issuance of the license.
MP Clarisse Imaniriho said drivers of automobiles (for road transport) are required to have a driving licence, asking whether the same could not be applicable to vessel navigators.
"I would like to know what is planned for the vessel navigation licence. Also, is there any place where a person can train in piloting a vessel when they need to," she asked.
MP Christine Bakundufite said the law is putting an emphasis on waterways transport, but expressed concern that there are no schools from which people can learn how to navigate vessels.
"There are countries where we hear that boats capsized killing passengers onboard. What are we doing to ensure the safety of passengers," she wondered, underscoring the need for regular technical inspection of the vessels to be used.
Among the requirements for railway transport, the bill proposes that the operator must have civil liability insurance that covers damages that may be caused to persons or property from the railway operation and he or she must comply with the insurance provisions.
It also provides that railway systems must be regularly inspected and maintained to ensure safety of passengers and goods.
On level of alcohol in blood and testing, it says that a train driver and assistant train-driver shall not perform their duties with a level of alcohol higher than zero point zero gram (0.0 g) per one blood litre (1 l), which implies they should be sober.
Developing waterways transport
Gatete told lawmakers that there are Rwandans already being trained in Tanzania to have professionals in different categories, including the vessel navigators, repairers, among others.
"But, we are working with MINEDUC (Ministry of Education) so that training can be offered here in Rwanda," he said, indicating that there was no developed waterways transport in the country.
He added that the maritime transport sub-sector has both public and private owned boats which are being developed to spur its growth, indicating that there are is a project for the construction of four ports - (Nyamyumba), Rusizi ( Bugiki), Karongi (at the Karongi cross-border market); and Rutsiro (Nkora region) - which has started on Lake Kivu.
"We realise that water transport will be a big deal for which we should build the required capacity. That is why we bring in the regulation so that it is done effectively," he said, underscoring that the safety for the vessels and passengers is critical.
Responding to lawmakers' questions on the implementation of the railway project, and its cost, Gatete said that the railway feasibility study and demarcations were done, indicating that what remains is to have the financing structure.
He added that the financing negotiations are still underway.
On the budget, he pointed out that the railway cost from Rusumo to Kigali was estimated at $1.3 billion. This is part of the Isaka-Kigali Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).
He said that after that part is completed, there will be a feasibility study for the construction of the phase two of the railway project which is Kigali-Rubavu to link with DRC Congo.
Currently, Gatete said, there are training offers in Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe so that Rwandans gain experience in those countries and apply it in construction and management of the railway in the country.
"We Know the cost, and we know that we will partner with the private sector [for the construction of the railway]," he said.