Kampala. After about 10 years in limbo, the MV Umoja ferry of Tanzania has resumed operations that will ease transportation of exports and imports between Uganda and Tanzania at a much reduced cost and time.
The Tanzanian ferry, which will operate on the Central Polygon route also known as the Southern route, had the first cargo officially commissioned in Kampala on Tuesday by Uganda’s State minister for Transport Aggrey Bagiire. The Central Corridor links Tanzania's Dar es Salaam port to Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo through rail, road and inland waterways.
The MV Umoja operation route will run from Port Bell in Uganda to Mwanza Port, Tabora and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania using a combination of road, rail and water transport. It has a roll-on and roll-off design that allows cargo wagons to be driven in and out of the ferry by train with ease at the port of shipment or destination.
The ferry is operated jointly by Ugandan and Tanzanian authorities.
According to a joint statement by Ugandan and Tanzanian authorities, the new ferry will be of great relief to importers and exporters. The statement says transportation of a 20-feet container of imports between Kampala and Dar es Salaam will now cost $1,330, dropping from $3,500 previously, which translates into a saving of $ 2,170. A 40-feet container will cost $2,570. The current transportation cost of the same container by road was not stated.
A 20-feet container of exports between Kampala and Dar es Salaam will cost $486 while a 40-feet container will cost $912. We were unable to establish the current cost by road for the same container size.
However, the statement said the discount rates are valid during the promotional period between June 1 and September 30 this year. Thereafter the rates will be revised to competitive tariffs.
Currently, the transit period for cargo between Kampala and Dar es Salaam by road is two weeks.
The statement says this transit period will also reduce considerably to three or four days.
The Rift Valley Railways, who lost the contract to run the Uganda Railways Corporation, was accused of neglecting the southern route of Kampala, Port Bell, Mwanza, Tabora and Dar es Salaam.
When the Rift Valley Railways Concession was terminated in January, the Uganda Railways Corporation took over the rail operations from RVR. It negotiated with Tanzania Ports Authority and Tanzania Railways Corporation to revive the southern route at reduced transportation fees for importers and exporters.
Revamping the Central Corridor
While launching the first operation at Port Bell in Luzira , Minister Bagiire said the re-opening of the route is additional improvement for transportation of goods to the countries in the central corridor.
“The new management will provide additional returns and these include low transport rates, about five days transit time, security of cargo, alternative access to the sea and consequently lowering the cost of doing business within the entire region,” he said. The move signals efforts are in earnest to revamp the Central Corridor trade and transport route.
He added that since the corridor forms part of the backbone of the regional transportation system in East and Eastern Central Africa carrying imports and exports of the five countries; Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and part of eastern DR Congo.
Ugandan abandoned the Central Corridor route when the former rail services concessionaire, Rift Valley Railways (RVR), took over the business in 2006.
MV Umoja is now expected to make 26 trips a month, Mr Ochaki told The EastAfrican.
The vessel has 22 wagons (about 40 containers).
Mr Ochaki said URC's MV Kaawa, which had been grounded since 2005, will resume operations to join MV Umoja.
Ugandan ships, MV Kaawa and MV Pamba, were withdrawn from maritime service in 2005 after MV Kaawa collided with sister vessel MV Kabalega leading to the sinking of the latter.
After several years, MV Kaawa was repaired but remained grounded “because RVR wasn’t interested in that side of the business”, Mr Ochaki said.
RVR's concession was terminated last year.