All East African Community (EAC) partner states are set to have similar policies and regulations governing their water bodies, which, officials say, will help reduce fatal marine accidents.
Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania have been using similar regulations, under the Lake Victoria Transport Act of 2007, but Rwanda and Burundi only recently joined the Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC), the body that oversees the waters.
This was observed yesterday at an LVBC meeting that sought to raise public awareness on the domestication of the regulations and their operationalisation.
If regulations are harmonized, all Rwandan lakes and rivers and those of other countries will be regularly visited by teams of experts to inspect their navigation systems – to ensure the safety of vessels and promote proper movement of people and goods.
In an exclusive interview with The New Times, Gerson Fumbuka, a marine transport safety and security officer at the LVBC, noted that their responsibility is to protect regional citizens against accidents.
He outlined some of the factors that lead to accidents as outdated vessels, lack of appropriate laws, inadequate safety equipment and lack of enough training among transporters, among others.
Fumbuka added that safer water transport will attract investors which will, in turn, provide employment opportunities to East Africans.
The Act requires each member state to establish a maritime administration unit and to implement maritime training and adhere to safety standards.
A transport expert, who preferred anonymity, explained that Rwanda’s water transport system is in a very sorry state, adding that the harmonization of laws will help the country build the capacity to develop the sector.
“Apparently we don’t have a sufficient regulatory framework governing our waters. Someone wakes up in the morning and starts transporting people on a boat that has no license, which has always led to accidents, especially on Lake Kivu,” he said.
Recently, five people aboard a boat died, while 37 others sustained minor injuries, when their vessel collided with another boat on Lake Kivu.
Alex Nzahabwanimana, the State Minister for Transport, explained that the development will help address the problems the sector continues to face.
He conceded that, currently, there are no regulations governing transport on Lake Kivu, adding that that the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA), is drafting relevant laws.