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    HomeNewsUganda Launch a First East African Cross Waters Transport Vessel

    Uganda Launch a First East African Cross Waters Transport Vessel

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    MV Mpungu, a novel freight transport ship, was launched from Entebbe on the shores of Lake Victoria on Thursday ahead of its maiden voyage in April.

    The “roll-on roll-off” vessel which accommodates trucks driven on at the departing port, then off at their destination is intended to strengthen trade links between Uganda and neighboring Tanzania.

    Musa Echweru, the state minister for Works, commissioned it on February 21 from the purpose-built Entebbe shipbuilding facility of SECO Marine (U) Ltd. He commended the project and thanked the people who put the idea together to fruition.

    “I can assure you that your investment is safe. Maritime transport is very delicate, there are so many hurdles to be jumped, and we shall help you jump those hurdles. We need vessels to occupy our water bodies, there are many who have showed interest, but you have gone beyond that, by proving a presence. This lake will be full of reliable vessels in the years to come. I declare MV Mpungu officially launched, for God and my country!”

    MV Mpungu will operate scheduled freight services between Port Bell, near the Ugandan capital Kampala, and Mwanza at the southern edge of the lake in Tanzania. The journey will take just 18 hours compared to the three or four days usually needed to transport goods by truck around the shores of the lake.

    The Mpungu has a capacity for up to 1,000 tons of containerized cargo equivalent to 21 trailers. The 96-metre-long vessel was built in Entebbe over a period of 21 months by SECO Marine, part of the Kenyan-headquartered Alpha Group.

    InfraCo Africa, part of the donor-funded Private Infrastructure Development Group, and pan-African logistics company Grindrod established a joint venture known as East African Marine Transport (EAMT), which commissioned the vessel. Grindrod will be responsible for operating the Mpungu.

    Speaking at the launch, Xolani Mbambo, Grindrod’s CEO said: “The ferry operation aims to provide a reliable, efficient and cost-effective solution for businesses in the region, thereby promoting trade, and contributing to economic growth.”

    InfraCo Africa’s regional asset management lead, Rodney Seema, told African Business that the costs of transporting goods to market can be “prohibitively high” for traders at present. “Freight transport across Lake Victoria is undertaken on an ad hoc basis and vessels sail only when they are full. This approach has economic and opportunity costs for businesses, particularly those working with time sensitive cargo.”

    Seema adds that Mpungu is set to bring particular benefits for companies selling produce that is vulnerable to spoilage. “For those transporting time-sensitive fresh produce, the reliable, scheduled EAMT service will enable them to plan their shipments, saving time and the potential spoilage of produce and avoiding driver fatigue.”

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