Excitement as Kisumu port's stalled MV Uhuru ferry roars back to life
By Kepher Otieno
| June 25th 2019
One of East Africa's biggest cargo vessel-the MV Uhuru which broke down thirteen years ago has roared back to life and is set to resume voyages to Unaga and Tanzania ports.
Spot checks by the Standard at the Kisumu port on Tuesday revealed a heavy presence of Kenya Navy engineers and Railways Corporation engineers who have been working on the giant vessel for the past few months.
The state had deployed a team of Navy marine engineers and naval architects to repair the ship which was grounded in 2006.
One of the key tasks of the Kenya marine engineers is also to redesign and maintain offshore oil rigs at the port as they repair the 1,400 tonnes wagon ferry.
The absence of the ship in the lake had adversely affected trade between Kisumu, Mwanza and Port Bell ports in Tanzania and Uganda respectively. The MV Uhuru, which is owned by Railways Corporation was commissioned at Kisumu on 17 October 1966.
Sources at the port told the media that they will also repair alternative energy projects such as wind turbines located offshore and tidal power at the port.
But the largest water vessel that used to ply the route Jinja, Mwanza, Musoma and Kisumu along with its sister ship the MV Umoja has been lying idle for decades.
This is despite the fact that when it carries wagons to either port bell Jinja or Mwanza it is capable of making up to Sh4 million in the round trip.
The repair of MV Uhuru and the on-going work at the Kisumu Port come at a time the National government has shown renewed commitment and interest on the reviving Kisumu which suffered a setback after discontinuation of the Kisumu-Nakuru railway line more than ten years ago.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga have visited the port twice since the beginning of the year. Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi also visited the port last week to inspect the on-going works.
The state has now pumped in Sh3 billion to give the port a new facelift and to bring back its stalled operations to normalcy.
Matiangi promised that the works at the port will be concluded by August this year.
Today, National Youth Service personnel and Prison warders were busy clearing the bush around the port and security has also been tightened.
Sources told the Standard that five Presidents from the East African countries are set to witness the launch of a new-look Kisumu Port by August.
The Presidents are Yoweri Musaveni (Uganda), John Magufuli,(Tanzania), President Uhuru, Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza and Congo's Felizx TiShekedi will take a ride on the MV Uhuru when they visit the port.
Already, preparations are in top gear for the planned relaunch of Kisumu port which is likely to spur the county's domestic growth and to create more wealth and jobs.
The ports used to employ thousands of people but these jobs were lost when it ceased active operations with nearly all ships that used to ply the Lake grinding to a halt.
But now in a fresh bid to tap and harness the blue economy as part of his legacy and handshake benefits, President Uhuru and Raila are keen to see the port roars to life.
On Tuesday, the MV Uhuru engine was ignited and let to roar for hours as the engineers fixed it again making it ready to ply the waters soon after the President's launch. It will be towing two tug boats once fully repaired.
Kisumu County Commissioner Pauline Dola told the Standard in her office that the Head of State is committed to ensuring that viable but stalled economic projects in Nyanza are revived.
According to Rift Valley Railways Group chief executive officer Isaiah Okoth, gradual repair works began in 2009, three years after it was withdrawn from active water business.
It used to make about Sh17 million per month at the height of its operations, and it would cost Sh20 million to Sh30 million to repair the vessel.
The move comes at a time when Kenya is keen to tap in the blue economy and to harnesses the potential of oceans, seas, lakes and rivers to improve the lives.
Kenya wants to leverage on the latest innovations, scientific advances and best practices to build prosperity while conserving our waters for the future generation.
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