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InfraCo Africa: Work set to start on pioneering freight ferry

InfraCo Africa, part of the Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG), and Grindrod have now commissioned SECO Marine, an affiliate company of Mombasa-based Shipyard, Southern Engineering Co. Ltd (SECO), to build a 96m long purpose-built roll-on/roll-off ferry.

Built in Entebbe, Uganda, the ferry will transport fully laden trucks, operating a safe, scheduled freight service between Port Bell (serving Kampala, Uganda) and the Port at Mwanza South, Tanzania with an anticipated journey time of circa 24 hours.

InfraCo Africa is the majority shareholder of the East Africa Marine Transport (EAMT) project which will pioneer a scheduled freight ferry service to facilitate trade across Lake Victoria. EAMT has benefitted from a European Union-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund (EU-AITF) grant which provided funding for market and technical studies as well as for legal and regulatory support.

“We are delighted to be partnering with Grindrod and SECO Marine to deliver the pioneering EAMT project, combining our own experience of delivering Kalangala Infrastructure Services, with Grindrod’s deep knowledge of African trade flow and SECO Marine’s ship-building expertise. By bypassing congested road networks, EAMT’s scheduled marine freight service is expected to prevent approximately 130,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions each year, whilst opening up trade and promoting economic development in the Lake Victoria Basin and the wider region.” – Gilles Vaes, Chief Executive Officer, InfraCo Africa.

In the countries bordering Lake Victoria, the majority of existing freight is transported by road, with journeys around the lake taking 3-4 days. To date, privately operated freight transport across the Lake has been undertaken on an ad hoc basis with smaller vessels sailing only when they are full. This approach has economic and opportunity costs for businesses, particularly those working with time-sensitive cargo.

“Grindrod provides customers with efficient and cost-effective routes to market for their cargoes. This solution achieves that objective and will unlock economic growth in the region through a scheduled marine freight service offering, significantly improving time to get goods to the market. It will also bolster Grindrod’s existing presence in East Africa in line with our objective to grow in this region. We are privileged to be an operational partner of InfraCo on this initiative.” – Xolani Mbambo, Chief Executive Officer, Grindrod Freight Services.

Expected to become operational in 2024, EAMT will create jobs and provide businesses with a faster, safer and more reliable route to regional markets. For those transporting fresh produce, a direct route across the Lake will prevent spoilage, enabling producers to cut waste and retain the value of their products. Reduced journey times are expected to boost trade and reduce emissions from road transport by removing freight vehicles from the region’s congested road network.

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