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Thursday 20th September 2018 in the afternoon a dark cloud hanged over Lake Victoria after the tragic accident of a passenger ferry MV Nyerere. It is reported that over 200 have lost their lives.

The East African Community-Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC) condoles with the people and the Government of United Republic of Tanzania for this tragic accident. We further wish to thank the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania for the swift action it took after the accident. This in effect saved many lives that would have otherwise been lost.

As a coordinating entity for Partner States, the East African Community (EAC) through the Lake Victoria Basin Commission shall continue contributing towards making Lake Victoria transport of people and their properties securer and safer. It is unfortunate that this tragic accident happened when the three East African Community Partner States sharing the Lake (Republic of Kenya, United Republic of Tanzania and Republic of Uganda) had just commissioned the Multinational Lake Victoria Maritime Communications and Transport (MLVMCT) project.

The project, funded by Africa Development Bank (AfDB) is coordinated by Lake Victoria Basin Commission, headquartered in Kisumu, Kenya, and shall be implemented in the three countries. MLVMCT project is aimed at improving safety and security in the Lake, including Search and Rescue (SAR) services in the event of marine tragedy.

An extra-ordinary meeting of Principal and Permanent Secretaries from the three countries took place early September, on 6th, 2018 in Kisumu, Kenya with agenda, among others: to fast track the review of the technical aspects prior the construction of the Regional Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centres in Mwanza, Tanzania, and sub-centres in Entebbe, Uganda and Kisumu, Kenya.

The meeting of Principal and Permanent Secretaries resolved and constituted a team of experts from the three countries to review and provide technical feedback specifically, on the designs and bill of quantities for the construction of Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centres. While members of the team of experts had kicked off the exercise, the ferry MV Nyerere capsized, 20th September 2018.

The Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres shall be supported by 22 Search and Rescue (SAR) Units spread along the shoreline and equipped with telecommunications equipment as well as speed boats and medical facility rescue boats. This project will be implemented over a period of 4 years starting May 2018.

There are other measures that have been taken by the EAC through her institution the Lake Victoria Basin Commission based in Kisumu Kenya aimed at abetting such tragic accidents and prevention of marine pollution by ships in the Lake Victoria. These measures include, but not limited to:

  • Installation of 86 Aids to Navigation equipment in the Lake Victoria in the three Partner States to ensure safety of navigation in the Lake.
  • Enactment of Lake Victoria Transport Act (2007) and its Regulations namely Safety Regulation (2010) and Fees Regulation (2010). This regulatory framework ensures safety and security of transport on the Lake Victoria. The implementation of this regulatory framework is vested with the Maritime Administrative Units that are to be established pursuant to the Act (2007) in each EAC Partner State;
  • Gazettement by the council of EAC Ministers of the number 110 as an emergency number to be used in the Lake Victoria for Search and Rescue Operations. The number shall be operationalized immediately the regional MRCC in Mwanza and national MRCC in Kisumu, Kenya and Entebbe Uganda are fully established;
  • Formulation of the Lake Victoria Oil Spills and Toxic Chemicals Contingency Plan. The Plan is aimed at guiding actions that should be taken should an incident or accident occur that spills toxic chemicals or even oils into the Lake. The LVBC also has one container of Oil Spill response equipment with tier 1 and tier 2 - equipment stationed at Kisumu Port which can be used in the event of oil pollution in the Lake;
  • In 2007, the Lake Victoria Basin Commission undertook a bathymetric survey to the access ports of Kisumu, Mwanza and Port Bell. This study has greatly boosted safety of vessels that access these ports;
  • Whereas the accident of MV Nyerere is yet to be technically established, most of the accidents in the Lake are weather related. In this regards, the LVBC in 2011, commissioned feasibility study to develop a plan for โ€œEnhancing Safety of Navigation and Efficient Exploitation of Natural Resources over Lake Victoria and its Basin by Strengthening Meteorological Services on the Lake. Currently LVBC is working in partnership with EAC Secretariat on HIGHWAY and WISER Projects to improve meteorological weather forecast services in the Lake Victoria.

All the above initiatives are coordinated by LVBC with the support from Regional Policy Steering Committee of the EAC Partner States and development partners. These collective efforts are geared towards ensuring safety and security to navigation in all our lakes. It is important to note that though the United Republic of Tanzania has 51% of the surface of Lake Victoria, it has overtime developed an elaborate maritime transport system including modernization of fleets in Lake Victoria. As we continue to condole with our brothers and sisters in the United Republic of Tanzania, we must all come together to ensure that such tragic accidents never happen again in our water ways.

Dr. Ali-Said, MATANO


Monday, September, 24th 2018

Tags: LVBC

East African Community
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