Kampala, Uganda: A UGX 750 million (USD 350,000) maritime administration unit will be set up as part of the process to harness the vast Lake Victoria for water transport and investments. Joel Okonga, the assistant commissioner in the water ministry, said that the office would be completed in 18 months.
The project is under the Lake Victoria environmental management programme second phase. It will also involve the surveying and making a navigation map for Lake Victoria, showing the water depth and navigational details. Okonga said that the current map was drawn in the 1920s and was obsolete.
He added that harnessing water transport and other commercial activities like the deployment of large vessels was presently impossible because the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) cannot license vessels unless the lake has navigation maps. “Investors cannot come on board because of lack of insurance,” he said.
Okonga explained that once the IMO had certified the lake as safe, vessels would be licensed and the waters opened to investors. The untapped potential of the Lake Victoria is an example of the lack of exploitation of East Africa’s abundant natural endowments.
Okonga explained that Lake Victoria is 82 meters deep. On average it is 42 meters so it can support huge vessels that can transport oil that otherwise could have been carried by 40 trucks. A vessel of 40,000 tonnes carries about 40 million litres.
The maritime unit will consist of light houses, a maritime survey unit, landing infrastructure and a maritime rescue contingency plan which provides for a state of preparedness in case of a water disaster.
The Lake Victoria Basin Commission is expected to set up the regional structure for navigational safety.