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Commission sets maritime safety unit on Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC) has embarked on the construction of an ultra-modern maritime rescue and coordination center at Mwanza in the United Republic of Tanzania to improve maritime safety and security on Lake Victoria.

The Sh. 300 million facility will also see Search and Rescue Stations (SARS) established on the shores of the lake in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania to coordinate rescue operations in the water body.

LVBC Executive Secretary (ES) Dr. Masinde Bwire said the initiative which is being implemented through the Multinational Lake Victoria Transport and Communication Project was in response to a sharp rise in the number of tragic accidents on the lake.

Over the last two years, he said 63 deaths have been recorded in the lake exposing the gaps in search and rescue operations capacity in the East Africa Community (EAC) region.

On 21st September 2021, 10 people died at Pier Beach in Homa Bay County in Kenya after a boat they were traveling in capsized.

A Tanzanian Commercial plane operated by Precision Air plunged into the lake on 6th November 2022 killing 19 people.

On 30th July 2023, a twin boat tragedy occurred in the Bunda area in the United Republic of Tanzania. claiming 14 lives.

This was followed by another incident on 2nd August 2023 in Uganda where 20 people died at Kalangala near Entebbe after their boat capsized.

The project funded by the Africa Development Bank (ADB), he said is expected to be completed in December this year to guarantee safety and security within the lake.

Dr. Bwire said the search and rescue centers on the shores of the lake shall be equipped with speed boats and medical facility boats to aid in emergency response.

“We cannot sit and watch our people lose lives in the Lake. The commission therefore reiterates its commitment to continue contributing towards making Lake Victoria safe,” he said.

Speaking in Kisumu during the 22nd Sectoral Council of Ministers on Lake Victoria Basin (SECOM-LVB), Dr. Bwire added that the facility once fully operational will have in place an elaborate maritime communication network for effective coordination in the event of a disaster.

LVBC which is an East Africa Community (EAC) institution responsible for coordinating sustainable development of the Lake Victoria Basin, he said has already established a telephone code (110), to help in the coordination of rescue activities in the event of a marine tragedy.

The project, he added also targets to build capacity for national and regional teams on search and rescue operations as the EAC region moves to scale up maritime and blue economy activities.

The training, he said shall be offered at the Maritime Training facility which is being constructed in Uganda at the tune of Sh.220 million through funding from ADB.

LVBC, he said was on course to scale up research on Lake Victoria to map out opportunities and enhance weather forecasts to ease navigation.

The agency’s research vessel MVJumuia which was grounded, he said has been revived and will soon start operations.

The Sectoral Council of Ministers on Lake Victoria Basin (SECOM-LVB) is the governing body of the commission which provides the strategic direction to the commission for the benefit of the people of East Africa.

The meeting was attended by delegates from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Permanent Secretaries and Ministers from the relevant ministries in the EAC member states are expected to attend the meeting on Thursday and Friday.

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