Tanzania and Kenya accuse Uganda of obstructing the $60 billion lake project
Kenya and Tanzania are urging Kampala to hasten its port developments due to the poor status of Uganda’s Jinja and Port Bell piers, a weak maritime strategy, and the stalled Bukasa Port project.
Port Bell, with a 2,000-tonne dry dock, lacks cargo-handling equipment, and merchants and carriers complain of frequent and extended delays in ferry loading and unloading.
With limited lighting and no backup generator, nighttime activities are tough.
Captain William Ruto, general manager of Kenya’s Kisumu Port, said Port Bell often delays regional goods.
Capt Ruto: “Importers and exporters seek efficiency.”
A shipwreck at Harbor Bell makes entering and leaving the port difficult.
Unused ship repair workshop. The tiny paved yard limits the number of loading and unloading trucks.
The area is concerned about Uganda’s ports. A year ago, Kenya’s authorities reopened Kisumu Port, heralded as a regional transport logistics game-changer. The Uhuru Kenyatta government wants to utilize the refurbished port to service East and Central Africa.
The Kisumu port is part of the East African Community infrastructure development project. It has the capacity to generate $60 billion in yearly commerce, but only brings in around 10% to the three large EAC countries.
Kenya has pushed its allies, notably Uganda, to cooperate with this project by hastening its execution to promote speedier and cheaper transportation of products, especially gasoline, to the Great Lakes area and South Sudan.
Kenya should make Kisumu a regional logistics center. Nairobi has long highlighted Lake Victoria’s transit possibilities. The port is a significant connection between Kenya and its neighbors, allowing simple shipping of petroleum products to Uganda, Rwanda, sections of DR Congo, Burundi, and South Sudan.
President Kenyatta backed the port, claiming faster freight flow, cheaper prices, and no fuel waste or adulteration.
If shipping products takes one-sixth as long as driving, this is helpful for merchants and investors and makes our area more competitive. Shipping three times as many tanks in one trip is fantastic for business. If using the Port of Kisumu costs half as much as road cargo, that’s excellent economics, he stated in Kisumu in June.
Nairobi and Kampala struck an agreement last year to rebuild the existing meter gauge train to boost connection and prepare for admission into the Great Lakes area.
Kenya seeks a dependable means of transport for freight transportation into the hinterland to make its logistics infrastructure function, especially the Naivasha inland container depot.
Nairobi wants to sell its produced products in the $92 million Congolese markets and establish a connection with Uganda quickly.
Kenya’s Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia visited his Ugandan colleague Gen Katumba Wamala on the margins of President Yoweri Museveni’s inauguration on May 12, 2021, to discuss the meter-gauge railway operations.
Uganda’s parliament authorized a $368.9 million loan to rebuild the ancient line, which authorities say is part of Uganda’s infrastructure diplomacy in the Great Lakes Region.
Kenyan authorities are worried that delays on the Ugandan side of the lake transit contract will cost them dearly, particularly after Nairobi invested $30 million in it and $500,000 to renovate the cargo vessel MV Uhuru.
Kampala’s delay in building an oil jetty on its side hindered Kenya’s efforts, thus Nairobi opted for tankers.
Uganda was supposed to finish a petroleum jetty by January 2016, however, completion dates are questionable. Once built, it will contain a 14-tank fuel storage facility and a 220 m jetty.
President Kenyatta commissioned the Kisumu Kenya Shipyard, a governmental organization under the Kenya Defense Forces that will repair, refit, and rehabilitate Lake Victoria ships.
Kenya spent $7 million to build a fuel jetty, feeder jetties, and piers, shunting areas, berths, a terminal, and yards, as well as administrative and Customs facilities at Kisumu to restore its position as East Africa’s inland marine trade hub. Forklifts, mobile cranes, and tractor-trailers are at the port.
A project that started as a quid pro quo for the political handshake between him and Raila Odinga in 2018 may be a business masterstroke.
Kenya Ports Authority officials said Kisumu port, together with regional ports at Mwanza and Bukoba, Tanzania, Jinja and Entebbe, Uganda, and Muhoma Bay, Rwanda, provide a perfect answer to Northern Corridor transit issues.
Tanzania, where half the lake is, is hesitant. Mwanza’s fisheries might boost the business strategy.
Mwanza is a center for fish processing and mining in western Tanzania. Mwanza’s 13 fish processing companies can process 1,065 tonnes of fish per day.
The construction of Lake Victoria ports is the largest project in executing the East African Community-Inland Waterway Transport infrastructure approved by member nations to connect Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya to the Northern and Central transport pathways.
The three nations want to resurrect linked ports and marine operations on shared waterways to boost integration and commerce by enabling cheaper cross-border transit.
Captain Ruto said Uganda must invest in renovating and extending its interior port infrastructure. He said that each of the three Lake Victoria ports — Kisumu, Port Bell, and Mwanza in Tanzania — facilitates commerce and travel.
Inefficiency impacts others, he said. Investors were disappointed with the Kisumu-Port Bell-Mwanza shipbuilding. Kenya and Tanzania are improving inland port facilities. Kisumu is the finest port on Lake Victoria, according to ISCOS.
Kisumu got 52.31 percent, followed by Mwanza South (51.14%), Bukoba (47.02%), Kemondo (44.02%), and Mwanza North (44.02%). (40.12 percent).
Jinja Pier scored 24.88% and Port Bell scored 37.96%. Next year brings new ships. Mahathi Infra Uganda Ltd. has constructed a 4.5 million-liter fuel barge.
One barge might replace 150 trucks in a location with high road development expenses.
One barge is undergoing final certification testing and will start working the Kisumu-Entebbe route in October.
Tanzania is also building the 92.6-meter-long, 20-meter-high MV Mwanza. The ship can transport 1,200 people, 400 tons of cargo, 20 automobiles, and 3 trucks. It’s due in December.
Marine experts believe these ships can’t dock at any Ugandan piers owing to the lake’s silting. Since 2000, Uganda hasn’t dredged its piers.
Investors that poured money into shipbuilding to exploit Lake Victoria’s burgeoning freight traffic are frustrated.
The stalled Bukasa port project hurts the area, which expected larger ships.
Dodoma is investing in larger ships for Mwanza port after extending its standard gauge railway to the port, a Tanzanian official told The EastAfrican.
“The Bukasa Port delay hurts Tanzania,” stated one anonymous official.
Bageya Waiswa, Uganda’s Permanent Secretary for Works and Transport, said regional efforts are needed to revive Lake Victoria commerce.
Kisumu port handles petroleum, soda ash, packaged fertilizer, crude palm, bagged rice, and sugar. The once-silted harbor has been dredged and cordoned off to keep off water hyacinth. Before dredging, water hyacinth covered the whole 3km port area, making docking difficult. The port’s 2018 renovations doubled traffic.
Kampala is working with the World Bank to modernize Port Bell to handle internal freight, tourists, and cargo from Kisumu, Mwanza, and Bukoba.
Port Bell isn’t abandoned. The port couldn’t be extended since it’s densely inhabited, making project-affected compensation costly.