RV Jumuiya on Lake Victoria now a ‘wasted investment’

Thursday January 13 2022
Jumuiya pic

East African Community’s Research Vessel ‘Jumuiya’ is docked at the Mwanza South Port in Mwanza Region awaiting major repairs and maintenance estimated to cost over $81,000. PHOTO | COURTESY

By Zephania Ubwani

Arusha. For over ten years now, the research vessel (RV) has been docked at Mwanza South Port awaiting repairs.

With the needed funds becoming increasingly elusive, RV Jumuiya is at risk of turning into a wasted investment - and an eyesore at best. Now the East African Community (EAC), which owns the vessel, is being urged to avail $81,825 for repairs that would bring it back into service.

The regional economic bloc is being pressed to put back into service RV Jumuiya “being the only major research vessel in the region”. The vessel was constructed in 1990 in the UK and taken to Lake Nyasa to undertake lake-wide acoustic surveys and other research activities there.

In 2006, it was acquired by the EAC and transferred to Lake Victoria for use by the Kisumu-based Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC).

Members of the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala), an oversight organ of the EAC, have called for urgent intervention on the matter. They said although the typical life expectancy of a research vessel like RV Jumuiya was more than 70 years, its seaworthiness is now questionable.

A report by Eala’s Accounts Committee obtained by The Citizen is categorical that the vessel’s Certificate of Seaworthiness expired in June 2012.

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Also expired are other certificates for Ship Registration and Safe Manning. They need revalidation in accordance with international conventions.

The vessel, the report noted, has mechanical problems that need to be addressed “if it is to pass the seaworthy inspection and be licensed to operate again”.

In 2017, LVBC estimated the cost of dry-docking and repair of the vessel now docked at Mwanza South Port to be $81,825.

This could not be as the Commission, which is an institution of the EAC, continues to grapple with serious budgetary and funding constraints.

The six EAC partner states approved only $5,500 and $2,600 for maritime activities during 2020/21 and 2021/22 fiscal years respectively.

Late last year, LVBC engaged the Dar es Salaam Maritime Institute (DMI) to carry out a cost/benefit analysis of bringing the vessel “back to the waters”.

The maritime institute estimated that at least $93,305 is needed to cover the cost of repairs, maintenance and dry-docking of the vessel. LVBC was to use the vessel to carry out research under various projects and conduct hydrographic surveys for the major ports in the shared lake.

However, with the EAC short of funds for the repairs, the EAC Council of Ministers has been asked to chip with in the needed funds. In a recent Eala session, the Kenyan MP Kennedy Kalonzo said it was a pity the objectives for which the vessel was acquired have not been realized.

For the past 10 years that the vessel has been docked, the Captain and Engineer have been paid a staggering $411,803 for no work!

The audit also reported that further scrutiny of payroll records and a site visit on October 31, 2019 revealed that the LVBC management continued to pay monthly salaries totalling $58,829 to the two staff for the year under audit.

“This implies that the total cost of salaries for the past years that the ship has been docked has accumulated to $470,632,” Mr Kalonzo said.