PUBLISHED ON May 12th, 2023

Sh650m for purchase of Lake Victoria ferries, communication system

Lake Victoria transport is set for improvement after the Treasury allocated Sh650 million for the acquisition of new ferries and communication systems in the new financial year starting in July.

Budget documents by the Treasury show that Sh300 million will be spent on acquiring new ferries while Sh350 million will finance the installation of maritime communication equipment. The Treasury did not disclose the number of ferries to be purchased.
A further Sh20 million has been marked for the development of a shipyard in Kisumu.

The upgrade plans come in the wake of scheduled improvements on five small ports in Lake Victoria to support the operations of the newly revamped main Kisumu port as part of a plan to grow East Africa trade.

The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and Trade Mark East Africa said earlier this year that Sio Pier, Port Victoria, Asembo Bay, Kendu Bay, and Homa Bay satellite ports will be upgraded to spur trade within the lake.

“The rehabilitated landing sites will serve the local communities by enabling transport between Kisumu port to these small ports by lake through the use of small RORO (roll-on, roll-off vessels or barges. Currently, the communities on the shores of Lake Victoria are primarily served by road sometimes travelling over long distances which could easily be covered through Lake Victoria” KPA said.

RORO vessels are primarily designed to carry wheeled cargo, such as cars, motorcycles, trucks, semi-trailer trucks, and buses.
The ongoing refurbishment of the main Kisumu port as well as the planned repair and upgrade of satellite piers is projected to further improve merchandise trade in the region.

Key shipping point

Before the collapse of the lake transport system, Homa Bay was a key shipping point for goods to neighbouring Tanzania. Vessels from Kisumu docked in Homa Bay and offloaded cargo which was then transported by truck to the Tanzanian border two hours away.

Mbita and Lunda K’otieno currently host regular ferry services by private firms and the upgrade of facilities in Kisumu is expected to boost trade in merchandise.

Kisumu port, which is a critical hub for trade with neighbouring countries such as Tanzania and Uganda and by extension Rwanda and Burundi as well as those in the Great Lakes Region, has undergone major upgrades since 2019.

The Kisumu port upgrade has included concreting the port yard, construction of the quayside, repairs of the linkspan, revamping the dry dock, and rehabilitation of all buildings to boost efficiency.

All roads within and the link roads to the port facility have also been repaired and feeder jetties and piers are also being put in place. The port has further been equipped with equipment such as forklift trucks, mobile cranes, and tractor-trailers.

The upgraded facilities have improved the performance of the Kisumu port which had for close to three decades been hit by several factors, including a dilapidated railway infrastructure and impassable and persistent invasion water hyacinth as well as boundary disputes that have turned the freshwater lake into a liability.

The ongoing refurbishment of the facility in Kisumu as well as the planned repair and upgrade of satellite ports is projected to further improve merchandise trade in the region.

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