Tanzania floats East Africa’s largest freshwater vessel

Tuesday February 14 2023
Tanzania's MV Mwanza Hapa Kazi Tu

Tanzania's MV Mwanza Hapa Kazi Tu, East Africa's largest-ever domestically manufactured fresh water passenger and cargo ship. PHOTO | THE CITIZEN


Tanzania has floated East Africa's largest-ever domestically manufactured fresh water passenger and cargo ship, the MV Mwanza Hapa Kazi Tu, on Lake Victoria.

The ship, launched at the Mwanza South Port on February 12, can carry 1,200 passengers, 400 tonnes of cargo, 20 small vehicles and three trucks. It is currently 82 percent complete.

"Up to this point of float-out, we can say the ship is complete and the remaining 18 percent is just minor installations that will be done in less than four months," said Eric Hamissi, the chief executive officer of Tanzania's Marine Services Company Limited.

Hamissi explained that the next phase includes finishing internal aesthetics such as paintwork, fixing air conditioners, beds, and toilets and installing navigation equipment.

Cost of vessel

The ship's construction began in January 2019 and was led by two South Korean companies, Gas Entec and KangNam Corporation. The 92.6 metre-long, 17-metre wide and 20-metre-high vessel will cost the taxpayers over Tsh100 billion (US$43 million).


"Until now, the contractor has been paid more than 93.8 billion by the government, and when he completes the work, the remaining amount will be paid," said Hamissi.

Upon completion, the ship will weigh 3,500 tonnes.


MV Mwanza's design includes an elevator section for people with disabilities, a clinic to provide health services, a disco and facilities for a music band to entertain passengers.

The ship is expected to ply Lake Victoria, providing a key transport and trade network between Jinja and Portbell in Uganda, Kisumu in Kenya, and Mwanza, Bukoba, Kemondo and Musoma in Tanzania.

The vessel will have a VVIP section for national leaders as well as regular VIP facilities including a first-class section with a capacity for 60 people, business class for 100 people and second class for 200 people.

"The last will be the economy class which will be carrying 834 passengers and, in this class, passengers will enjoy a modern ambience with maximum relaxation, enabling them to tour comfortably," said Hamissi.

Stimulate economic growth

The Tanzanian government expects the ship to stimulate economic growth, especially after the 2026 railway project (SGR) completion from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza.

Tanzania's Deputy Minister for Works and Transport Atupele Mwakibete said that the ship would help "open new markets inside and outside the country by starting new trips that will help facilitate commercial, business, tourism and private trips".

Tanzania is also renovating the MV Umoja, a cargo vessel, the MT Nyangumi, for carrying petroleum products and the MT Ukerewe.

Big business

Kenya officially relaunched the refurbished MV Uhuru 1 in May 2021 after the project stalled for over 15 years.

Since it resumed operations, the MV Uhuru, with a 1,260-tonne capacity, has transported over 50 million litres of petroleum products.

The success of the Uhuru saw the government order a new vessel, MV Uhuru II, from Kenya Shipyard Limited (KSL) in Kisumu.

The 1,800-tonne, 100-meter vessel, with an estimated capacity of 2 million litres of crude oil per trip, is the first ship to be made in Kenya by Kenyans. Dutch firm Damen Damen Construction Company, which has shipyards in South Africa and Egypt, provided consultancy services during the ship's construction.

The Sh2.4 billion (US$ 19.2 million) MV Uhuru II vessel was floated in August 2022 and is expected to start operations in May 2023.

KSL has received six new orders for the construction of ships from Tanzania and Uganda and another 11 orders from local firms.

Uganda also shipped its maiden fuel cargo from the Port of Kisumu using a newly-launched tanker, Kabaka Mutebi 11, in December 2022.

Water transport corridor

The 4.5 million litres of fuel ferried aboard that ship marked the revival of a water transport corridor between Kenya and Uganda. The MV Mwanza is expected to provide a further boost to burgeoning trade across Africa's great lakes.

"With the vessel's full utilisation, fuel prices will reduce, resulting in fair commodity prices in the country," Geoffrey Balamaga, the assistant commissioner of field services, told Uganda's Independent, in an interview.

A cubic meter of fuel (1,000 litres) currently costs US$40 to transport to Uganda by road, compared to a maximum of US$25 by ship.

In 2021, the Ugandan government also commissioned the transportation of petroleum products aboard the MV Kaawa from Mwanza, Tanzania to Port Bell in Kampala. Uganda's Mahathi Infra Uganda Ltd is busy with the construction of three more vessels.

In 2019, the East African Community, at a joint ministerial meeting on strategy for Lake Victoria integrated transport programme, revealed that the Lake Victoria's transport infrastructure has the potential of generating US$60 billion worth of trade annually but currently only realises around USD$6 billion for the three countries combined.