Ship stirs trade on Lake Victoria

MV Uhuru roars back to life after being abandoned for decades. This is after Kenya Navy and Kenya railways engineers teamed up to repair and reignite the engine ready for take-off again in the Lake Victoria waters. Mv Uhuru used to ply Jinja, Mwanza, Musoma and Kisumu. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

The refitted MV Uhuru cargo vessel in Lake Victoria has so far transported 17,463,420 litres of petroleum products from Kisumu port to Port Bell in Uganda.

Kenya Railways (KR) Managing Director Philip Mainga said the resumption of voyages by the vessel after its suspension in 2011 has boosted maritime business on the lake.

“The MV Uhuru has now raised fresh hopes for the revival of ties between Kenya and its regional bilateral trading partners keen to reap from the revamped Kisumu port,” he said.

The vessel’s management is working on resuming old routes to Mwanza and Bukoba in Tanzania, and Jinja and Entebbe in Uganda and Muhoma Bay in Rwanda.

Yesterday, Kisumu Marine Services Manager Mwalimu Disi said MV Uhuru has stirred a wave of new business.

“Shipping lines have had a very hard time making money in the past eight months because of the novel coronavirus which also disrupted maritime, shipping and trade on the lake,” he said.

Scores of ships sailings across East Africa had to be cancelled as travel was curtailed to stop the spread of the virus.

“MV Uhuru can easily carry a load of 1,400 tonnes. Each tank wagon has a capacity of 50,000 litres. The vessel can carry 22 tank wagons, bringing a total of 1.1 million litres,” said Disi.

The ship was refurbished at a cost of Sh250 million by Kenya Navy Engineers, much less than the Sh1.8 billion that private firms wanted to be paid for the job.

Chief Administrative Secretary in the Ministry of Defence Peter Odoyo said in a recent tour of the port that deployment of Kenya Defence Forces could equally reduce the cost of repairing the old railway line estimated at Sh3.8 billion.

KR and port officials revealed that MV Uhuru and a sister ship, MV Umoja in Tanzania, were built in 1965 and started service in 1966. At over 300 feet, they were the longest on any of East Africa’s lakes.

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