Ferry firm revives lake transport

Mbita Ferry Services' Lake Express 1 which travels to Kisumu, Siaya and Homa Bay counties through Lake Victoria in less than an hour. [Collins Oduor, Standard]
Plans to revive the collapsed passenger transport system on Lake Victoria have been mooted.  

This is after a marine transport company announced plans to launch at least two passenger ferries on the Kisumu-Homa Bay and Siaya-Migori routes, signaling a return to the once-vibrant lake transport system which collapsed decades ago.

Mbita Ferry Services, which operates ferries linking Homa Bay and Siaya to Mbita and Mfangano Islands, said it will expand to cover longer routes.

Manager Bernard Siro the company was in the process of securing approvals from the Kenya Maritime Authority to launch the services. “Many people in Nyanza live along the lake but the road patterns do not follow the shoreline, creating transport and trade hurdles. Lake transport would provide the fastest means and the shortest route between the trading centres,” he said.

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He said they would first introduce two vessels and increase the number with demand. The schedule would also follow demand.

The company is also looking to leverage massive renovation and upgrade of the Kisumu port to revive the once vibrant cheap and efficient transport corridor.

The company plans to introduce passenger and cargo vessels on the routes to take a pie of the thriving trade along the lake. The ferries will link Kisumu to Mfangano, Mbita, Rusinga, Takawiri islands as well Kendu Bay, Homa Bay, Siaya and Muhuru Bay in Migori.

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The marine firm is banking safety, time-saving and lower costs, as well as efficiency and bulk haulage, to lure traders currently using low volume hauling, costlier and time slow road transport. 

This launch could also cut travel time by up to three hours. Its impact on trade could also unlock hurdles to fish transportation, a logistical hitch which has seen cheap imports flood net food-importingKisumu town.

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The company is also eyeing regional trade  and is in talks to lease and operate Government-owned MV Uhuru whose return to the waters will be commissioned by the President himself on next August 15.

The 100-foot towering MV Uhuru’s return follows the ongoing renovation of the port at a cost Sh3 billion. The completion of the dock at the Kisumu port is expected to aid the State oil transporter’s ambitions of increasing its regional petroleum market share.

The Sh1.7 billion Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) jetty will be home to vessels like a 750,000-litre boat that used to ply the lake’s waters before the collapse of maritime trade.

The 12-crew MT Harambee, which was refurbished at the Kisumu Maritime School, was also back in the waters on Friday last week, in readiness for the commissioning of the jetty.

The 300-tonne vessel owned by Tricon International will make at least six trips to Uganda’s Jinja and Entebbe, ferrying 4.5 million litres of petroleum products - the equivalent of 132 trucks on the road.

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Tricon Director of Operation Ted Odero said the vessel, built-in 2002, was withdrawn due to lack of business.

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Lake VictoriaMbita Ferry ServicesKenya Maritime Authority