Uganda, lenders review financing for Bukasa port

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By KABONA ESIARA

Uganda plans to renegotiate a financing deal with lenders at the Bukasa inland port on Lake Victoria, to save the project which has stalled at the dredging, wetland removal and rehabilitation stage.

Uganda is pushing to open the $229 million project to African developers considered cheaper than Belgian firms to be allowed to compete for bids.

The Ministry of Public Works and Transport has asked the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development to renegotiate the financing agreement.

“We have announced three times that we are calling Belgian companies to develop the port, but their offer price is higher than what we had planned to spend on the project,” said Rosemary Tibiwa, commissioner for transport services. East Africa.

The latest bid was published in the Brussels Times on October 20, 2021. It attracted two valid bids from Belgian construction companies specializing in dredging works, but the bid price from both companies was above the ceiling of the Ugandan regulations on public procurement and disposal of public assets.

The companies defended their offer saying the equipment to be used at the port is expensive.

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Bukasa Port, part of the EAC Inland Waterway Transport Infrastructure Development Project, when completed, is expected to handle up to 5.2 million tonnes of cargo annually and facilitate the movement of goods from Tanzanian ports of Dar es Salaam and Tanga, via rail to Port of Mwanza on Lake Victoria.

Barges would then bring the cargo across the lake to Bukasa, reducing Uganda’s dependence by 70% on the port of Mombasa, Kenya.

The first phase of construction was due to start in June 2019, according to Jochen Scherer, the project manager of GAUF Engineering Company, a German company that did the consulting.

Phase two was to start immediately and be completed in April 2022, including infrastructure, administrative unit and shipping facilities.

Phase three was supposed to include the construction of a multi-purpose terminal, free zones and shipyards by 2030.

Uganda’s river transport problems are set to be solved by Mahathi Infra Uganda’s $270 million project, which has completed the construction of a ship, a pipe to transport oil from Kisumu and a jetty to Kawuku , 16 km from Kampala.

The lakeside logistics complex is expected to start operations in March 2022, but this will be heavily dependent on the government constructing a five-kilometre road to the facility.

The five kilometer road to the facility needs to be tarmacked for heavy trucks carrying fuel to use,” said Mike Mukula Board Chairman, Mahathi Infra Uganda.

“The ship is ready. Our 14 tank storage facility has a capacity of up to 70 million liters of fuel and a 220 meter long jetty is complete,” Mukula said.

Ministry of Works and Transport Permanent Secretary Bageya Waiswa said the Ugandan government was negotiating with the World Bank to fund the upgrade of Port Bell to handle domestic cargo, tourists and Kisumu Mwanza-Bukoba freight. .

However, the port needs to be dredged to accommodate larger modern vessels that can facilitate roll-on-roll-off cargo handling systems. The dilapidated railway line from Kampala to Port Bell also needs to be rehabilitated and the lagoons reclaimed.

“Port Bell has not been abandoned. The port could not be expanded as it is heavily populated which is expensive if we were to compensate the people affected by the project,” Bageya said.

Uganda and Tanzania are on hand for delayed plans to decongest the northern transport corridor, reduce trade costs and boost the region’s competitiveness. Specifically, Dodoma is accused of thwarting the regions’ efforts to divert trucks from the northern corridor to the central corridor.

The diversion of some traffic is seen as essential to decongest the Busia and Malaba border posts from trucks that cause delays along the northern corridor.

The private sector and regional business lobbies accuse the Tanzanian government of delaying the geolocation of a crucial road linking the northern and central corridors.

“The 21 km stretch of the Himo-Singadi road has yet to be geo-fenced,” said Emile Sinzumusi, Customs and Trade Facilitation Program Manager at the Transit and Transport Coordination Authority. of the Northern Corridor (NCTTA).

The Northern Corridor Transit and Transport Coordination Authority (NCTTA) plan is to divert trucks from the port of Mombasa at Voi to Taveta, a northern Kenyan border point with Tanzania.

From the Tanzanian border, the trucks would head for Holili, a border point in western Tanzania with Kenya on the Arusha-Singida road.

“This route is shorter, cheaper and faster for importers and exporters in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi,” Sinzumusi told The EastAfrican.

NCTTA data shows that Rwanda and Burundi together import 30% of their cargo through Mombasa.

The port of Mombasa also handles 40% of transit freight to eastern DR Congo.

Currently, Uganda does not have a regular ship to connect the country by water to the Central Corridor.

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