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 construction
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 will operate the Lake’s first fixed-day scheduled freight service, as well as upgrading facilities at Port Bell (serving Kampala, Uganda) and the Port at Mwanza South, Tanzania where necessary. A long term lease agreement is in place for the Port Bell infrastructure. EAMT is being delivered in partnership with regional logistics experts Grindrod Limited (Grindrod). It is anticipated that the first ferry will demonstrate market appetite for a scheduled service, attracting further investment to expand freight capacity and to provide additional cross-border routes in the future.

Built in Entebbe, Uganda, the 1,000 tonne, 96 metre EAMT ferry is expected to become operational in 2024, addressing road congestion and significantly reducing average journey times (it currently takes 3-4 days to drive around the lake, whilst the ferry journey time will be 18 hours). 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. Affordable access to markets is expected to facilitate development of the wider blue economy across areas such as tourism, fisheries, education and training.

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.

Throughout the development phase of EAMT, InfraCo Africa has worked with eleQtra (drawing on experience gained during the development of the KIS project) and with Grindrod (drawing on the company’s established transport and logistics capabilities and understanding of African trade flows) to successfully deliver EAMT.

Developed with Grindrod Ltd