By: Ismael Kasooha


The Prime Minister of Uganda Rt. Hon. Nabbanja Robinah has commissioned the operations of MV Pamba to sail on the waters of Lake Victoria after over 16 years of grounding.

Nabbanja said that the Government of Uganda under the able leadership of President Yoweri Museveni has prioritized development of infrastructure such as roads, railways, power and water, because these are the foundations of any economy.

Rt. Hon. PM poses for a photo with the Hon. Minister of Works & Transport aboard MV Pamba

She commended the Ministry of Works and transport for ensuring that the vessel is fully insured and meets international standards.

“We have been assured of safety and even the vessel has international accreditation on top of insurance cover,” said Nabbanja.

Under the overhaul and upgrade of MV Pamba, government installed modern technology including automated navigation charts, automated communication system, radars and eco sounders.

The upgrade will help vessel operators to easily navigate while on the vessel to avoid accidents especially in areas with rocks submerged within the current designated routes.

MV Pamba also upgraded from a steam ship to one with Twin Caterpillar Prime movers.

It is also using Automated Gas Oil – Diesel and Industrial Gas Oil – Heavy Diesel Oil and Twin water screws (Propellers).

MV Pamba Vessel that begun sailing on Thursday, starts from Portbell Luzira to Mwanza through Kisumu and is able to carry over 800 tonnes of cargo in 22 wagons and will be making 12 Journeys per month.

“I am extremely delighted to preside over the return of MV Pamba on our waters to ease transport and reduce the cost of doing business in the country,” said Nabbanja.

The Premier said that sixteen years of this vessel being grounded has cost the business community, travellers and the country a lot.

PM taking charge in the cockpit of MV Pamba at the commissioning

“As you know, water transport is one of the cheapest and safest modes of transport, but which we have not fully exploited.  Our Lake Victoria is just here with us, but we are not fully utilizing its potential. I would like to direct the Ministry of Works and Transport to explore how we can best use our water resources for transport,” said the Prime Minister.

Nabbanja said that this MV Pamba is able to carry over 800 tonnes of cargo in 22 wagons but If this cargo was to be put on our roads, it would destroy them, but it would also take longer to move by road from say, Mwanza to Portbell.

Nabbanja said that a few weeks ago, the country was struggling with the movement of fuel and other imports into the country due to strikes by truck drivers over COVID-19 testing mandates at Malaba and Busia borders.   She said that this caused a backlog of over 70 Kilometers into Kenya, resulting into fuel dealers taking advantage of the situation to hike fuel prices.

“When I travelled to Malaba, I established from the records at the border, that we actually had above normal average fuel in the country, but that dealers had decided to artificially raise the prices. If we had many of such vessels like MV Pamba in operation, such situations would not arise, or they would be minimized, “said Nabbanja.

Nabbanja thanked the leadership of the Ministry of Works and Transport for getting these repairs done and also thanked Mango Tree Group for undertaking these repairs.

“We now must make sure that our business community knows about the services offered by this MV Pamba. We must also make sure that we make it affordable for those who want to use it, so that we do not operate a white elephant that is not adding value to our people,” said Nabbanja.

She added that these kind of vessels are the ones that should provide cheap, quality and affordable transportation of the massive produce coming out of the first pillar of the Parish Development Model, which the President is going to launch in a few days to come.

“We also must make sure that we maintain the facility well, undertaking regular repairs so that it does not go back to a sorry state,” cautioned Nabbanja.

During the function, Works and Transport Minister Gen. Katumba Wamala told guests that the MV Pamba Vessel that has been grounded for the last over 16 years has been repaired at a cost of sh12bn to enhance a multi model transport system.

“The Vessel will provide cheap, quality and affordable transportation of products across East Africa,” said Katumba.

Katumba thanked everybody who has been behind this project.  He acknowledged that the project had taken very long, but that it was better late than never.

Currently the business partners using the vessel include Roofings Uganda Limited, Stabex, Mukwano group of companies and World Food programme among others.

Domestically, URC is set to begin rehabilitating the line between the towns of Tororo and Gulu, a project which will cost €37 million and is backed by the government and European Union. This will be joined by a new multimodal freight hub at Gulu, a scheme valued at $18 million and delivered through a public-private partnership.

URC took over operations from RVR in 2018 after a failed concession. Operations were so low due to the poor management of the concessionaire, with track and rolling stock in a state of wear and disrepair. Ever since, URC has been struggling to keep the railway operations going, barely meeting the operational costs. Amidst all the challenges the Corporation is facing, URC has been able to keep operations offering both freight and passenger services.

According to the URC strategic plan 2021/22-2024/25, the Corporation’s strategic direction aims at increasing access to rail services by developing the capacity of URC and enable the Corporation realize her vision “ The Preferred Freight and Passenger Transporter in Eastern Africa by 2040”. End