Pioneering East Africa Marine Transport vessel launches on Lake Victoria

22nd Feb 2024

Entebbe, Uganda: Following a construction period of twenty-one months, yesterday saw the launch of the M.V. Mpungu – the pioneering East Africa Marine Transport (EAMT) vessel – on Lake Victoria. The vessel was launched from the purpose-built Entebbe shipbuilding facility of SECO Marine (U) Ltd, an Alpha Group Company. The vessel will now undergo a period of Lake trials before commencing service in Q2 2024. The M.V. Mpungu will be Lake Victoria’s first scheduled roll on / roll off freight vessel, addressing the need for a reliable freight service to facilitate regional and international trade.

Commissioned by InfraCo Africa, part of the Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG), and experienced regional logistics company, Grindrod Limited (Grindrod), the 96-metre-long vessel has the capacity to handle up to 1,000 tons of containerised cargo, the equivalent of twenty-one trailers. EAMT also benefitted from a European Union-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund (EU-AITF) grant for market and technical studies as well as for legal and regulatory support.

Brenda Omuombo, Regional HSES Manager (PIDG), officially launched and named the vessel, undertaking the naval tradition of smashing a bottle of champagne on its hull,  “I am honoured to have been asked to launch the M.V. Mpungu here today, I wish the vessel – and all who crew and sail on her – good fortune!” The vessel was then launched into the Lake by specialist teams from SECO Marine (U) Ltd.

Honoured guest at the event, State Minister for Works, Hon. Echwera Musa, began by thanking the young men and women present who built the M.V. Mpungu vessel, “They are our heroes today.” He continued, “…thank you to the people who put the idea together first, the owners of the company, for accepting to come and invest in this part of Africa, and to the designers of the vessel who put this design on paper so that it could be translated into reality. It humbles me.” He thanked the vessel stakeholders for having confidence in Uganda. “I can assure you that your investment is safe. Maritime transport is very delicate, there are so many hurdles to be jumped, we shall help you jump those hurdles. We need vessels to occupy our water bodies, there are many who have showed interest, but you have gone beyond that, by proving a presence. This Lake will be full of reliable vessels in the years to come. I declare M.V. Mpungu officially launched, for God and my country!”

Speaking after the launch, Rodney Seema, InfraCo Africa’s Regional Asset Management Lead, said, “The launch today marks the culmination of many years of work by all parties to develop, finance, design and build this pioneering vessel. InfraCo Africa is very proud to have worked with such dedicated partners and to have been a part of EAMT’s journey since the early years and we look forward to continuing our work together as we operationalise the M.V. Mpungu over the coming months. We are excited to witness the economic impact that access to a safe, scheduled freight service will bring for Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, and the wider region.”

The ceremony took place in the presence of officials from the Ministry of Works and Transport and representatives from InfraCo Africa, SECO, Grindrod, OSK Design and EAMT and members of the construction team who had gathered in Entebbe to mark the momentous occasion of floating the vessel.

Mr. Sujal, Director of SECO Marine (U) Ltd said, “We are thrilled to have launched M.V. Mpungu which has been classed by Bureau Veritas, a global leader in ship classification. This is an important milestone for the vessel, the maritime industry in Uganda, and for logistics within the East African community. After 19 months of close coordination with our partners, we are nearing the final stages of construction. Upscaling and training skilled labour in Uganda has been of particular importance to us and we are delighted to witness the contribution of local talent to this project. Building on sixty years of engineering project delivery, we are proud to have constructed a vessel of this stature, the first of its kind in Uganda and the East African region.”

Mr. Nis Hammer from OSK Design said, “At OSK Design we are pleased to continue our cooperation with InfraCo Africa on this remarkable new project. Contributing to the East Africa regional development has for more than three decades been an integrated part of our culture. Newbuilding’s of this scale improve transport efficiency by shifting a significant traffic volume to the maritime corridor.”

Grindrod will operate the EAMT vessel, offering freight carriers access to a safe, scheduled freight service between Uganda and Tanzania. The EAMT vessel will cross the lake in an anticipated time of eighteen hours, compared with the current journey around the lake by congested regional roads which can take between three and four days.

As well as preventing spoilage of fresh produce, reduced journey times are expected to boost trade, supporting SDG 9.4. The fuel-efficient freight vessel will reduce CO2 equivalent emissions associated with climate change and will remove freight vehicles from the region’s congested road network.

Xolani Mbambo, CEO of Grindrod Limited, emphasised the importance of understanding customers’ requirements and finding innovative solutions for efficiently and cost-effectively moving their cargo to markets. “The ferry operation aims to provide a reliable, efficient and cost-effective solution for businesses in the region, thereby promoting trade, and contributing to economic growth. We are excited to be part of this project and confident in our operational teams’ ability to deliver excellent results in this endeavour.”

The EAMT vessel is expected to undertake its maiden voyage in April 2024.

Related projects