The death of 31 people on Lake Victoria last year has triggered a water vessels registration process that government says will streamline water transport in the country.
More than 30 people drowned last year after their boat, MV Templar capsized in Mukono district. According to officials from the ministry of Works and Transport (MoWT), government is now interested on knowing how many boats the country has, their safety to passengers, how prepared are the owners to handle calamities and how transport worthy are they.
George Muhenda Rukara, the commissioner, maritime administration at the MoWT, explained that although Uganda has over 1,800 landing sites, the government is starting with 50 landing sites but will roll out the programme as time goes.
Some of the first landing sites will be in Kampala, Wakiso, Mpigi, Jinja, Mayuge, Buikwe, Mukono, around L.Albert and L.George.
“Working with Central Corridor Transit Transport Agency (CCTTA), we have decided to start with those [50 landing sites] because they have a lot of people and many business activities, this will also help government to have data that will be used to develop the landing sites,” he said.
Rukara further explained that apart from the physical counting, public sensitization and giving out licences, there will be audits for water transport worthy especially for those transporting passengers.
“We are also working with the ministry of Agriculture’s Fisheries department to see how licences and colour will be given to boats to enable identifying fishing boats from passenger boats,” he said.
Rukara said they are training over 100 enumerators who will be deployed at different landing sites. The ministry said the registration will be compulsory but the public will be first sensitized before enforcement is done.
Amos Kankunda, the secretary general at Uganda Shippers Council, said, the registration process will give an opportunity for government and CCTTA to revive the water transport on the central corridor.
The central corridor involves countries like Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and DR Congo. Uganda trades with Uganda through Mutukula/Mwanza border to get their goods from Dar es salaam seaport.
“People have been relying of the Mombasa (northern corridor), but when the central corridor is developed Uganda can have alternative routes and the economic viability will be determined by Uganda’s ability to develop its water infrastructure,” he said.
According to Kakunda, Uganda has only two water vessels; one is under renovation but to fully utilize the water bodies, the country needs more vessels.