LAKE Victoria travellers have every reason to smile as the government is building a new ship and conduct major and minor rehabilitation to existing vessels in the lake. It is obvious that water transport is vital in the economic growth of any nation.
Transportation and the mobility it confers are linked to a level of output, employment and income within a national economy. In many developed countries, transportation accounts between 6 and 12 per cent of the GDP.
Business studies show that transportation accounts on aver age between 10 and 15 per cent of household expenditures, while it accounts around 4 per cent of the costs of each unit of output in manufacturing.
However, this figure varies greatly according to sub sectors. For some times now, vessels that ply Bukoba-Mwanza route have been grounded for services. However, the government through Marine Service Company Limited (MSCL) confirmed to the ‘Business Standard’ that everything is in place to set a new and bright dawn for Lake Victoria travellers.
The company’s Acting Managing Director, Mr Eric Hamissi said in an interview that so far his office is implementing four major projects that aim at improving and bringing efficiency in water transport in the country.
He said in the first project, the government is looking forward to build a new ship. He said so far the procedures for procuring the ship were already finalised and that the company is waiting to sign the contract with the contractor. He said the new ship is set to be built by South Korean company ‘STX’.
According to Mr Hamissi the contractor will build the ship in a period of 24 months. “As the government, we would like the contractor to build the ship in 16 months, we are setting good environment to facilitate that,” he said.
“The contractor has asked for the improvement of the dock and other infrastructures at Mwanza port, this will enable them to speed up the building of the ship,” he said. Mr Hamissi urged residents of Lake zone to be patient as the government continues to implement various major projects.
“I would like to ask wananchi to bear with us, we have big plans and things are going to change, I can assure you that we are going to solve water transport once and for all,” he said. The new ship, he said will have the capacity to carry 1,200 passengers and 400 tons of cargo.
On the second project, the MSCL boss said the government has set aside fund for major rehabilitation of MV Victoria which plies Bukoba-Mwanza route, MV Liemba which operates in Lake Tanganyika and MV Butiama, which plies Mwanza-Ukerewe route.
“In this project, the government has allocated 20bn/- for major rehabilitation of MV Victoria, 10bn/- for MV Liemba and 7bn/- for MV Butiama, upon the completion of the rehabilitation, these vessels will come back to life and we expect to improve business and offer high quality and reliable services to people,” said Mr Hamissi.
According to MSCL boss, the company is fulfilling the procedures for signing contract with ship building companies for major rehabilitation. He said for MV Victoria will be rehabilitated by KTMI from South Korea while MV Liemba will be under LEDA Company from Croatia.
“The rehabilitation for MV Victoria is set to take 12 months after signing the contract while MV Liemba and MV Butiama will take eight months,” he said. The third project involve minor rehabilitation of vessels.
The MSCL boss said the project involves MV Serengeti that plies Bukoba-Mwanza route, MV Clarius, which operates in Lake Victoria, ML Wimbi in Lake Victoria and MT Sangara, which operates in Lake Tanganyika.
He said MSCL has already secured 300m/- from Tanzania Port Authority (TPA) for minor rehabilitation and that the rehabilitation is set to be completed this month. “We expect all these vessels to start fully operations by October, this year,” he said.
Moreover, in a bid to ensure efficiency and offer quality services, MSCL is looking forward to employ electronic ticketing system. The company’s boss affirmed that his office has already submitted specification to E-government and that soon tenders will be announced.
He vowed to take MSCL to international level and that in few years to come wananchi will experience major changes in the area. “The future is extremely bright for the company and Tanzanians in general, we are picking up with new strategies basing on modern technology, MSCL is committed to offer services with international standards,” he said.
Mr Hamissi said 800m/- has been allocated for the purpose. Earlier, residents in Mwanza and Kagera region who depend on water transport said business has paralyzed following the suspension transportation services in Lake Victoria.
In April, this year, Special Seat MP, Ms Conchester Rwamlaza (Chadema) said in Parliament that business has paralyzed in Kagera region since majority traders cannot afford to transport goods through land route.
She asked the government to immediately act on the situation to keep the economy growing in the Lake zone region. Some residents of Bukoba town in Kagera region told the ‘Daily News’ that business has paralyzed in the region since water route is cheapest and reliable for transporting tons of cargo from the region to Mwanza and other regions compared to land route, which is currently being used.
Some traders in Bukoba town told the ‘Daily News’ that it was easier and cheaper to transport agriculture produces from Kagera region to Mwanza and other surrounding regions. They said in return the ship sailed with various industrial products including building materials, drinks and other products, which are not produced in the region.
“The main business between Kagera and Mwanza was bananas, we used to transport bananas to Mwanza, many youth got income through this business, which was directly linked to transportation through Lake Victoria,” said one of banana traders, Mr Denice Luchaki.
He said, before the halt of MV Victoria operations, majority traders in the region were transporting and bringing in goods from Mwanza and other regions through water transport.
“It is always cheaper to use water route because the ship belong to the government therefore there are always affordable transportation charges, but since the ship was grounded, things have changed, we are forced to use road route, which is most expensive,” he said.
Mr Jackson Kalinjuna said many traders now import goods from neighbouring countries especially Uganda. He said they are eying at goods from Uganda through Mutukula border because it is cheaper compared to those transported through roads from Mwanza.
“We opt for goods from Uganda because they are cheaper compared to ours that are brought to the region through roads,” he said. Mr Kalinjuna asked the government to immediately fix MV Victoria and MV Serengeti so that business could get back to normality.
“With MV Victoria, It’s obvious prices of many goods in this region will go down, a bundle of aluminum iron-sheets is currently sold at 285,000/- from 250,000/-, we believe the price will drop after the commencement of water transportation services,” he said.
At Bukoba port, things have changed as well, many traders have closed their woody small shops. Mr Ramadhani Rwekaza, who sells sardines along the area, said the place used to be busy with many people but things have changed, the area now looks like abandoned island.
“We are not happy with this situation, our economy is going down, I used to sell between four and five buckets of sardine a day. But since MV Victoria and MV Serengeti halted operations there has been no people’s movement in the area and thus no business.
He added that his fellow traders have closed business while others changed the business to catch up with the situation. “We used to sell sardines here, there were many people who arrive and depart from and to Mwanza, they used to boost money circulation at this area, but now there is no way we can all stay here scrambling for few customers,” said Mr Rwekaza.
The Bukoba Municipal Mayor, Mr Chifu Kalumuna requested to do everything in its capacity to resume transport in Lake Victoria so that wananchi in Kagera region could go on with both social and economic activities.
“It has been challenging to do business in Kagera region without MV Victoria and Serengeti, people used to transport bananas, coffee, avocado and other crops through water route, the cost doubles when they use road from Kagera to Mwanza,” he said.
He said at Bukoba port, youth and women have become jobless after the suspension of water transport in Lake Victoria for a long time. He said building materials such as iron sheets, nails, cement and others are sold at higher prices compared to other region due to high transportation cost by road.
“We depend on trucks that are privately owned, therefore it is difficult to control transportation cost, at the end of the day, its ordinary wananchi who suffer from high prices, we are therefore requesting the government to immediately resume water transport services,” he said.
In response to Bukoba Municipal Mayor, the MSCL boss said his company is setting strategies that will lead to bright future in the marine transport industry. About MSCL MSCL was incorporated with effect from December 8, 1997 under Company Ordinance and gazetted on June 21, 1999.
Prior to that date it was an integral part of RC. MSCL headquarters are located in Mwanza and operates in three districts markets in Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika and Lake Nyasa, and within each it provides passengers services and cargo transportations.
Marine Services Company Ltd. operates passenger services in the great East African lakes, namely Victoria, Tanganyika and Nyasa with foreign voyages to Mpulungu in Zambia, Bujumbura in Burundi, Kalemie, Uvira and Baraka in Congo and Nkata Bay in Malawi.
Between July 2013 and April 2014, MSCL transported 231,866 passengers and 41,234 tonnes of cargo.