Port Bell to Become Marine Hub as Govt Moves to Revive Water Ports

Two vessels that have since been defunct, docked at Port Bell in Luzira.

Lake Victoria’s shoreline is set for a major facelift when plans to revamp the existing ports, and also build a new one, take shape, in a development that will boost the economy and decongest the traffic on Uganda’s road network.

The Ministry of Works and Transport is in the early stages of a grand plan that will turn Port Bell into a passenger and tourist port; the Jinja port into a fishing port; and build the new Bukasa port to handle the heavy marine cargo.

Apollo Kashanku, the Transport Economist at the Ministry, said the demand for water transport far outstrips the supply.

“We don’t have enough ships. We only have MV Kaawa and MV Umoja for Tanzania. We need about $4.5 million to repair MV Pamba. But Bukasa will come with four new vessels,” Kashanku said.

He was speaking at a preparatory meeting for the upcoming annual Regional Logistics Expo 2019 due next week, on August 21 and 22 at the Sheraton Kampala Hotel.

The Expo is organized by the Uganda Freight and Forwarders Association (UFFA), in partnership with the NLP, the MoWT and the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) under the theme: “Innovative and Sustainable Solutions for Freight Logistics”.

Expected to attract over 500 local and international participants, the expo will examine how the industry can keep readjusting in an ever shifting business environment through human resource skilling and reskilling, professionalism and self-regulation, as well as embracing innovations like blockchain technology, artificial intelligence, the internet of things and big data.

Also to be addressed is the fragmentation at both enterprise and regulatory level within the freight logistics industry. This division has resulted in a disjointed industry with limited information sharing and difficulties in quantifying practicing professionals.

In addition, the numerous policy and regulatory challenges that hinder competitiveness in freight logistics including inconsistent vehicle axle load control limits, dimensions and numbers of axle limits, operational costs and tariffs, amongst others, will be tackled.

At the Expo, the Works Ministry will expound on its plans to improve the country’s transport infrastructure, in a bid to turn Uganda into a Regional Logistics and Distribution Hub.
According to the government plans, the Bukasa port will be the main commercial water gateway into the country, replacing Port Bell in Luzira.

For decades now, Port Bell has been operating below capacity, in terms of the tonnage it is handling as traders resort to road transport. The port land at Luzira has also been heavily encroached on.

The option of building the new Bukasa port, which will sit on a larger piece of land, is gaining a lot of support.

Instead, Port Bell will be the main water hub for scheduled passenger voyages between the towns of Mukono, Kampala, Entebbe, Mpigi, among others. There are also proposals to build a marina at the port. Less than five per cent of cargo into Uganda comes through water transport.

Situated on the shores of Lake Victoria, Port Bell handles passenger and cargo traffic destined for Kisumu, Kenya and Mwanza and Musoma in Tanzania.

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