Water Transport

Current state

Tanzania has a number of lakes which are used for water transport both internally and externally for instance Lake Victoria, Lake Nyasa and Lake Tanganyika. Main routes connect Zanzibar and Pemba with Dar es Salaam, Tanga, Bagamoyo and Mombasa, Kilwa Kivinje, Lindi, Mikindani, Mtwara and Msimbati with other coastal towns and Mafia and the mainland.


Ferries operate on Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika and Lake Nyasa and between Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar and Pemba. There’s a US$5 port tax per trip. While all of the lake ferries are slow and crowded, travelling with them offers an authentic glimpse into local life. The Lake Tanganyika and Lake Nyasa routes are also very scenic, sliding slowly past mountains and lake-shore villages.

The official route between south-western Tanzania and Mozambique is via Malawi on the Songea between Mbamba Bay and Nkhata Bay and then from Nkhata Bay on to Likoma Island.


There are small boats that sail along the eastern shore of Lake Nyasa between Tanzania and Mozambique. However, Lake Nyasa is notorious for its severe and sudden squalls and going this way is risky and not recommended.

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Water Transport

Inland Water Transport Policy (IWT)
The policy focuses on developing, operating and maintaining an efficient, cost effective, reliable, safe and secure system, taking into account the following;

  • Promoting competitiveness of the Rwandan economy and making use of opportunities for job creation while linking the IWT policy with other sectors of society.
  • Keeping the Rwandan waterways and its surroundings among the most clean and safe areas of the country and beyond.
  • Sharing in the responsibility for global ecological developments and actively supporting efforts to combat negative environmental influences

Transport on Lake Kivu
This is the largest lake in Rwanda forming the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. There are limited modern boat services between the major ports of Cyangugu, Kibuye and Gisenyi. The local boats are most common means of transport on the lake.

Other Lakes
Transport on the other lakes in Rwanda is limited to local boats which transport people across the lakes.

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mv pearl

Uganda has a number of lakes which can be used for regional and internal water transport. Lake Victoria which shared with Kenya and Tanzania and Lake Albert shared with Democratic Republic of Congo can be used for regional transport in addition to internal transport. The other lakes and rivers of Uganda are only be used for internal transport.

Wagon Ferries

Rift Valley Railways which has the concession to operate Uganda Railways operates 3 wagon ferries on Lake Victoria from Port Bell and Jinja in Uganda to Kisumu in Kenya and Mwanza in Tanzania. The maximum capacity of each wagon ferry is 880 tonnes.

Local boats
There are a number of motorised local boats on all lakes of Uganda which local people use to move from place to place.

Government’s support

The Government of Uganda fully understands the importance of water transport as an essential component of the National Road network through the provision of “road bridges” between individual road systems severed by water. The government is in the process of replacing the aging ferries which act as road bridges.

20 Year Water Master Plan

In addition the government has already carried out studies to assess how to create an integrated road, rail and water transport. The recommendations in the study report are summed up into a 20-year Water Transport master plan with a capital investment of $484 million. However, the funds to implement the plan have not been mobilised.

Means used in the water system

The means used in the water system include the following components:

Wagon ferry services on Lake Victoria.
Short–Distance road vehicle ferries acting as ‘road bridges;
Informal sector operations by individually owned canoes.

The lakes have a number of land sites which do not have basic infrastructure like public toilets, medical services, shops and restaurants and accommodation . The landing sites will develop faster if the basic infrastructure are put in place by government.

Uses of internal water transport

The internal water transport has the following uses:

It provides low cost access to the islands
Remote shorelines on lakes can be easily reached
It connects villages along the banks of rivers which cannot be crossed by road or on foot.

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