Use railway line, water transport to reduce fuel price hikes, says URC

Trucks transport fuel on road. Most fuel importers prefer using road to transport fuel instead or railway or water transport.  PHOTO | EDGAR R. BATTE 

What you need to know:

  • There is no need to cling onto road transport that several disadvantages such as an increased cost of transporting fuel.
  • 1,000,000m fuel: Litres of fuel the train can transport on one ship in a day. 

Uganda Railways Corporation has asked fuel importers to use the railway in transporting fuel. on persisting with road transport claiming the railway has the capacity to carry half of the country’s fuel demand in one go.

This comes at a time when the current fuel crisis has exposed the challenge of overreliance on road transport for fuel imports.

Could the current fuel crisis with its escalated prices be because the railway has been ignored and fuel importers still insist on using the road?

Mr Stanley Sendegeya, managing director,  Uganda Railways Corporation (URC) notes that people seem to be stuck on the means of transport for fuel.

“As railway operators, we are prepared to deliver fuel to the market.  We have two wagon ferries currently operating between Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania that is Kisumu, Mwanza, Port Bell  and Jinja,” Mr Sendegeya says.

He notes that there is no need to cling onto road transport that several disadvantages such as an increased cost of transporting fuel. 

“At one go, our ship brings 1 million litres of fuel and the train brings one million litres of fuel. So if we operate three ships on the lake  and the railway line, everyday the railway line can deliver two trains. That is two million litres everyday, that is the railway line from Eldoret through Malaba to Kampala,” he elaborates.

In addition, the water using the ships can also deliver at least a million litres of fuel per day. 

“That guarantees us a supply of three million litres of fuel per day; which means the railway will cater for 50 per cent of the required fuel on the market.”

Mr Sendegeya argues that it would take 50 trucks to match his daily capacity pound per pound and maybe the country would not be here if the railway was used more.

For instance, where a container is charged between $1,000 (Shs3.5m),  and $2,000 (Shs7m) on road, a railway importer would pay half of this rate  for the same quantity.

Mr Fred Byamukama, the State Minister of Works in charge of transport, noted that  petrol stations that adopted water transport to transport fuel had fuel.

“Our plan is to sensitise all service providers of fuel. Yes they can use the road which is fine but let us embark on water transport and railway transport because in one day, it brings a lot of fuel because we can make many turns to Kenya and Tanzania in a day,” Mr Byamukama said.

Has Uganda learnt or forgotten anything from its past experiences? With the Kenyan election in six months, can Uganda’s freshly opened economy afford another disruptive fuel crisis?

The private sector players are afraid that Uganda has learnt nothing from history and with Kenya six months away from elections, the country still consumes fuel, hand to mouth.

Mr John Walugembe, executive director, Federation of Small and Medium Enterprises (FSME), says the current fuel crisis is a stark reminder of the need to raise the capacity of Uganda’s reserves which are more worrying with the Kenyan elections six months away.

“Our concern is over oil reserves. We should not be at the mercy of a functional supply chain. What if something happens tomorrow? Kenya is going into an election. In 2008, we had the same problem. Why don’t we stock and have our strategic oil reserves ready? The National Oil Company should be doing this,” Mr Walugembe says.  

In the aftermath of the fuel crisis are the artificial price hikes that beg for effective government regulations even if the economy is liberalised.

Fuel crisis        
The current fuel crisis is a stark reminder of the need to raise the capacity of the country’s reserves which are more worrying with the Kenyan elections six months away.

In the aftermath of the fuel crisis are the artificial price hikes that beg for more effective government regulations even if the economy is liberalised.

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