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China dredger explores Lake Victoria waterways transport potential | Coastweek

Lakes Entrance Dredger 'April Hamer' operating in Australia. Dredging is an excavation activity usually carried out underwater, in shallow seas or freshwater areas with the purpose of gathering up bottom sediments and disposing of them at a different location. This technique is often used to keep waterways navigable. WIKIPEDIA PHOTO - AUTHOR DASHERS

China dredger explores Lake Victoria waterways transport potential

China explores transport potential of Africa’s largest fresh water body

by Ronald Ssekandi ENTEBBE, Uganda, (Xinhua) -- On the shores of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest fresh water body, lies a ship, the largest of its kind seen on any inland water body in East Africa.

Locals, old and young stand by the fence to see the massive ship being built by Chinese to ply Lake Victoria, a lake shared by Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, and by extension Rwanda and Burundi.

Chinese engineers working with local staff are putting final touches to the ship that is expected to move on the waters at the end of this month.

It is an engineering ship, its owners Mango Tree, a Chinese company registered in Uganda told Xinhua recently at the building site in central Uganda.

The ship will dredge ship channels on the lake-bed to open the water ways on the lake, a move that is expected to boost trade in the east African region.

The region under the East African Community (EAC), a trading bloc, brings together Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya and Tanzania.

"This one is a pioneer for developing water transport in East Africa.

The water ways in Lake Victoria are very shallow, so big ships cannot pass," said Fan Shuchun, Director Mango Tree.

Experts say Lake Victoria is an important inland waterway in the region whose development could play a pivotal role in unlocking the economic potential and increase integration of the EAC member states.

The Lake’s potential as an inland waterway is however not fully exploited as it suffers from lack of investment and the region depends on the expensive all-road routes.

The Lake is currently served with appropriate ports and piers with docking facilities.

With increased economic integration in the EAC, experts argue that lake transport is expected to handle higher volumes of cargo and passengers.

Shuchun said currently it costs about 60 U.S. dollars to transport one tonne from Kenya’s border posts of Malaba and Busia to Uganda’s capital Kampala.

He argued that if water transport is improved, the cost will go much lower.

"If we use a lot of water transport, the cost and safety coupled with massive transport, we would save a lot of money," said Shuchun.

He said once the ship is finished, it will dredge ship channels at Uganda’s Port Bell and Jinja ports.

Thereafter it will move to Kenya’s Kisumu port before proceeding to Tanzania’s Bukoba and Mwanza ports.

What is now critical, according to Shuchun is commitment by the region’s governments to fast track the dredging process.

He said it would cost an estimated one billion U.S. dollars to dredge ship channels and build bigger ports on Lake Victoria.

Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania already have a trade partnership to promote the use of Lake Victoria to ease congestion on the roads and ensure that the countries’ harbors handle more goods.

Once the dredge ship is complete, Shuchun said the company, using its Chinese experience will embark on construction of cargo and passenger ships.

There are also plans to set up a marine vocational school where students are taught how to build boats. They will also be equipped with other skills like welding which they can apply elsewhere to earn a living.

"The Chinese have taught me how to operate a Crane. With this skill, I can work anywhere even when I leave this place," Yeeko Kanyoro, Crane Operator told Xinhua.

The locals who have been involved in the construction of dredger will be integrated in the marine school to pass on their skills or the will work elsewhere to pass on the skills.




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