Fishermen in Lake Victoria are now eyeing improvement in fishing and cross-border trade following the refurbishment of Kisumu port.
A fishermen lobby said the prospect of their trade is now looking brighter following upgrade of the port.
Lake Victoria National Beach Management Units Chairperson Tom Guda said the State should now fast-track reforming laws that have traditionally imposed barriers to fishermen from fishing freely in the lake. He also called for the removal of tariffs as Kenyan traders will be using the port to transport fish to Uganda.
“With the Kisumu port ready, the State should now move faster to do away with operational bottlenecks affecting fishermen in the region,” said Mr Guda.
The facility, which has undergone an intensive upgrade, will now see wagon ferries and vessels operating on the lake, a move set to transform fishing fortunes which have been declining.
Currently, Kenyan fishermen on the lake, especially in Remba, Ringiti and Migingo islands, are forced to sell their Nile Perch fish, locally known as mbuta, to Uganda at lower prices due to poor market prices in Kenya, and lack of fish processing factories along the lake.
“Harassment and detentions aside, Kenyan fishermen going for Nile Perch have no alternative but to sell majority of their catch to Ugandan traders at lower prices because we lack processing factories along the lake on the Kenyan side,” said Mr Guda.
Recently, Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) Managing Director Daniel Manduku said the port can handle 50,000 TEUs or an equivalent of 200,000 metric tonnes.
Of concern to fishermen too is the delay in reviewing the East African Customs Bill 2009, which they argue can improve trade and fishing relations among fishermen from the three East African States.
Mr Manduku said works on the port have been completed and the facility is ready to start handling cargo, with the main focus on shipments to the hinterlands. Work done on the facility include concreting of the port yard, construction of the quayside, repairs of the linkspan, repairs of the dry dock and rehabilitation of all buildings.
Quayside is an area along the banks of a water body while a linkspan is a type of drawbridge used mainly in getting vehicles on and off a vessel. All roads within and the link roads to the port facility have also been repaired. Feeder jetties and piers are also being put in place. Kisumu port has been equipped with among others forklift trucks, mobile cranes and tractor-trailers.