Uganda has after a period of 17 years of no activity, resumed shipping of petroleum products through Port Bell in Luzira.
On Wednesday, morning, MV Kaawa a marine cargo ferrying vessel carrying 50000 litres of fuel docked at Port Bell en route from Mwanza as part of the test project for the route.
“We have decided to engage Stabex and this is a trial cargo. The metre gauge for this route has been rehabilitated from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza. This means transit time has reduced from 4 to three days. It is an opportunity railway can utilize,” said Stephen Ssekasenza, the acting Uganda Railways Corporation Managing Director.
According to the State Minister for Transport, Fred Byamukama, if all fuel companies buy into the idea of importing via water, the roads will be saved from damage.
“So far the tanks you have seen here are for only Stabex to sample whether this route is effective. If we have all companies of fuel leaving the road, we will eliminate traffic congestion, reduce accidents and roads will not be spoilt. Our roads will be saved,” he said.
According to Gilbert Otim, the marketing manager for Stabex Uganda, a local fuel marketing company, the challenges of using the road made them take a shot at using use water for transporting fuel.
“The presidential call for us to use marine service came at a time when we were looking for options of using the marine because of the different challenges of maintaining a fleet of trucks which is very expensive,” Otim said.
“Today has marked the beginning of this venture and will continue importing through this Mwanza- Portbell route.”
The fuel cargo that arrived on Wednesday is the first in 17 years and according to government, efforts are in high gear to resume marine transport as well as the revival of the central corridor route.
This will see the project added onto the Port Bell –Kisumu route which has seen five million litres of fuel imported since February 2021.
Presidents Museveni and Magufuli(RIP) 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 11k m railway line from Port Bell to Kampala which is currently dysfunctional.
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 it generates annually for the three countries combined.