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Government loses UGX 9.4 billion to unregistered marine vessels

FILE PHOTO: MV Peral operating on Lake Victoria

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Government’s failure to register marine vessels across all water bodies in the country has led to the loss of up to 9.4 billion Shillings, according to a report by the Auditor General on the state of the marine sector.

The Maritime Department of the Ministry of works embarked on the registration of all seaworthy marine vessels in the aftermath of the MV Templar accident on Lake Victoria in 2018. The vessels included watercraft, landing crafts, ferry wagons, boats and canoes, yatches and speeding fibre boats.

However, out of the estimated 20,000 marine vessels in the country, 11,800 vessels constituting 59 percent were not registered, yet they continued operating on the lake. Each vessel was to be registered at a cost of 800,000 shillings per vessel, implying a loss of 9.44 billion Shillings to the government.

The Auditor-General also noted that the institution has failed to enforce safety of navigation-related activities leaving the marine police with the sole responsibility to enforce maritime regulations in the country.

“The planning, budgeting and execution of this function was non-existent in the department. This was left to the Maritime Police Unit at Kigo whose primary role was to keep law and order with a focus on security-related matters. This implied that the compliance to building standards, licensing and registration of water vessels was not done,” The Auditor General’s reports.

He however recommends that to enhance safe and reliable transport in the water subsector, it is important that the enactment of the Inland Water Transport Bill into law is fast-tracked, and an enabling working/operational environment is put in place.

He argued that in the absence of an updated maritime law, the water transport subsector remained inadequately regulated.

The ministry of works had also planned to undertake a baseline survey that would help the Maritime department understand the kind of vessels on all lakes in the country. However, the survey was not conducted as the ministry awaited resources from the Finance Ministry for the operation.

Works and Transport Minister Katumba Wamala indicated that the registration of all marine vessels on the lake is still an ongoing process which also needs resources to continue. He says that whereas the department is financially constrained, the Ministry is committed to register all vessels and improve the marine sector in the country.

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