Tanzania / Uganda: East Africa Marine Transport

Facilitating regional trade


Inadequate transport infrastructure presents a major barrier to trade expansion in sub-Saharan Africa. Limited routes are vulnerable to disruption and the costs of transporting goods to market are prohibitively high for regional traders and producers. In the countries bordering Lake Victoria (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda), the majority of existing freight is transported by road via the region’s congested Northern Corridor. Freight transport across Lake Victoria is undertaken on an ad hoc basis and vessels sail only when full. This approach has economic and opportunity costs for businesses, particularly those working with time sensitive cargo.  The Heads of State of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the East African Community (EAC) are committed to adopting an integrated approach to diversifying trade routes, recognising the potential to transform Lake Victoria from a trade barrier to an important trade route.


Under development
2016 -

The East Africa Marine Transport (EAMT) project will pioneer a scheduled roll-on/roll-off freight transport service across Lake Victoria, transporting fully laden trucks. EAMT has commissioned a purpose-built vessel and operate the Lake’s first fixed-day scheduled freight service, as well as making improvements to facilities at Port Bell (serving Kampala, Uganda) and the Port at Mwanza South, Tanzania where necessary. Delivered in partnership with Grindrod Limited (Grindrod), it is anticipated that the pilot ferry will demonstrate market appetite for a scheduled service, attracting investment from the private sector and Development Finance Institutions to expand freight capacity and to provide additional cross-border routes in the future.

The service is expected to become operational in 2022. The EAMT ferry will carry an anticipated 123,000 tonnes of cargo in its first year, increasing to 337,000 tonnes annually by year five.  With lower freight costs than existing transportation routes, it is anticipated that the project will save the economy approximately US$2 to 3 million in the first year alone.   Access to a scheduled freight ferry will relieve pressure on roads, offering producers and traders a reliable, sustainable, cost-effective and faster route to regional markets. It is estimated that the project will prevent around 130,000 tonnes of  CO2 equivalent  emissions per annum. Affordable access to markets will facilitate economic development and combat poverty.

InfraCo Africa currently operates a passenger and freight ferry service on Lake Victoria as part of the multi-sector Kalangala Infrastructure Services (KIS) project. Linking Bugala Island to mainland Uganda, KIS’s safe, reliable ferries have demonstrated demand and enhanced trade opportunities; benefits which InfraCo Africa hopes to replicate through EAMT.  The European Union – Africa Infrastructure Fund (EU-AITF) supported the  design and development of the project, providing funding for feasibility studies around market assessment, technical definition and design assessment of the legal and institutional framework, port infrastructure, shipping lanes and customs processes.

 Developed with Grindrod Ltd