AfricaPress-Tanzania: IT was all smiles in Kagera and Mwanza regions as well as other parts of the country yesterday when the 61year-old MV Victoria ship became afloat in Lake Victoria from Mwanza to Kagera for test after a year of renovation.
Making six hours journey from Mwanza to Bukoba port marked the new dawn for the residents of the two regions, who had eagerly waited for the ship to resume business for years.
The revival of the water transport from Kagera region to Mwanza means a lot to the economy of the Lake zone, whose other several activities hinge on the transport once revived.
Being onboard as the ship left Mwanza at 9:40 am and docked at Bukoba port at around 03:59 PM, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication, Leonard Chamriho said the ship would take approximately six hours in the journey.
Without going into details, he said the ship will launch its official early routes as from next month, adding: “The rehabilitation has been completed and next month the official routes will be revived. Similarly, another ship is undergoing the same construction and will be completed next year.”
In a related development, the PS pointed out that construction of Musoma port has been completed, and soon ships will be assigned trips to ply, saying: “The government is focusing on boosting businesses through water transport, because it is cheap and reliable in comparison to other means of transport.”
Earlier, it was established that the MV Victoria would be fixed with digital and automated navigation equipment similar to those used in today’s modern world marine transport.
In its repair commissioned to KTMI Company from South Korea, about 22.8bn/- was spent, where in 2018, the government through its marine firm, Marine Services Company Limited (MSCL) injected 152bn/- to revive three vessels and finance the construction of a slipway at Mwanza South Port in Mwanza region.
The project also involved the construction of another new ship in Lake Victoria at 89.7bn/- with a capacity to carry 1,200 passengers, 400 tonnes of cargo, 20 small vehicles and three trucks.
The vessel, which will be the largest in Great Lakes region, measures 92.6 metres in length, 17 metres width and 11.2 metres height.
The construction of the 3,500-tonne vessel is being undertaken by Gas Entec and Kangnam Corporation, all from South Korea and SUMA JKT.
Upon its completion, the ship will operate at a minimum speed of 14 nautical miles per hour and a maximum of 16 knots.
The ship will ply between Mwanza-Bukoba, Mwanza -Musoma and Mwanza to some ports in Kenya and Uganda.
The projects are in line with the fulfillment of President John Magufuli’s 2015 general election pledge that a new ship would be constructed to replace MV Bukoba that in 1996 had an accident in the lake.
However, commenting on the developments, the Marine Services Company Limited (MSCL) Managing Director, Mr Erick Hamis said his company faced some economic challenges, after MV Victoria seized operations in 2014.
“The revival of this vessel means a lot to the public and the company as well, and we reached a time when we failed to pay salaries,” he noted.
However, he noted that once in full operations the area residents will benefit a lot especially in their socio-economic activities.
On his part, Kagera Regional Commissioner, Brig Gen Gaguti said once revived, businesses especially at the Bukoba port would resume and employ several youths, adding: “I commended President John Magufuli for keeping his promise to us.
This is a golden opportunity that would speed up development for the residents…the MV Victoria has been completely overhauled and now fitted with new engines, propells and three standby generators.
Earlier, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) Ideology and Publicity Secretary, Mr Humphrey Polepole said that in 1996 the ship sank in Lake Victoria and claimed about 1,000 lives.
However, when President Magufuli came to power he promised to construct three new ships including rehabilitation of the MV Victoria that now takes only six hours from Bukoba to Mwanza.
In related development, Mr Polepole directed that one tonne of banana onboard would be charged 27,000/- instead of 120,000/- that used to be the case in the past.
While, on its return journey to Mwanza today (Monday) all cargo will be carried freely, as he appealed to Defence and Security organs to monitor also its security and safety.
Expressing their joy, some Kagera region residents including, Getrude Kokunywegera (27) from Migera Street in Bukoba Municipal Council, who sells bananas, said it would boost her business.
“The New MV Victoria will enable us to conduct business easily between Bukoba and Mwanza, and we expect our economy to improve,” she said.
Kagera Region produces almost 2.4million tonnes of banana (about 60 per cent of the national total production) and over 60,000 tonnes of coffee annually (about 35 per cent of the national total production).