Key highlights:

The ob­ject of the Bill is to pro­vide for the reg­u­la­tion of in­land wa­ter trans­port by pro­vid­ing for reg­is­tra­tion and li­cenc­ing of ves­sels, the safety of life and nav­i­ga­tion on in­land wa­ter­ways, the pre­ven­tion of pol­lu­tion and pro­tec­tion of the ma­rine en­vi­ron­ment and ma­rine se­cu­rity, reg­u­la­tion of ports, re­peal­ing of Ves­sel (Reg­is­tra­tion)Act, Cap362,the Fer­ries Act, Cap 355, the In­land Wa­ter Trans­port (Con­trol) Act Cap 356, Part XII of Uganda
Rail­ways Cor­po­ra­tion­ Act, Cap 331, and to con­sol­i­date the law re­lat­ing to ship­ping in Uganda and any other mat­ters re­lated to wa­ter trans­port.

The In­land Wa­ter Trans­port sub­sec­tor is char­ac­ter­ized by dis­jointed and old laws and stan­dards which re­quire im­me­di­ate re­view and har­mo­niza­tion. At pre­sent, the sub-sec­tor is reg­u­lated un­der the Ves­sel (Reg­is­tra­tion) Act, Cap 362; the Fer­ries Act, Cap 355; the In­land Wa­ter Trans­port (Con­trol) Act Cap 356; Part XII of the Uganda Rail­ways Cor­po­ra­tion Act, Cap 331 most of these laws were en­acted dur­ing colo­nial times when this sub­sec­tor was per­form­ing at a min­i­mal level.

There are a num­ber of things that have emerged since colo­nial times in­clud­ing the stan­dard op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dures, the types of ves­sels, the new trends and dy­nam­ics in the wa­ter/​mar­itime trans­port man­age­ment, in­creased num­ber of users, in­creased ac­ci­dents and con­duct of in­ves­ti­ga­tions and the need to con­form to re­gional and in­ter­na­tional Con­ven­tions that Uganda is a party to.

Fur­ther to the above, Uganda ac­ceded to the In­ter­na­tional Mar­itime Or­gan­i­sa­tion Con­ven­tions which com­pels State
Par­ties to com­ply with in­ter­na­tional stan­dards for the safety of lives, ves­sels, and the en­vi­ron­ment. The Bill seeks to do­mes­ti­cate these Con­ven­tions through the in­cor­po­ra­tion of these Con­ven­tions. In the same vein cer­tain pro­vi­sions of the Lake Vic­to­ria Trans­port Act, 2007 that were not yet op­er­a­tional­ized have been op­er­a­tional­ized
by the Bill.

The cur­rent laws reg­u­lat­ing wa­ter trans­port in Uganda are not har­monised and this of­ten leads to over­lap of man­dates when any at­tempt is made at im­ple­men­ta­tion. For in­stance, mat­ters re­lat­ing to ports are pro­vided for un­der the Uganda Rail­ways Cor­po­ra­tion Act, Cap. 331 while the In­land Wa­ter Trans­port (Con­trol) Act, Cap 356 refers to a board es­tab­lished un­der the Traf­fic and Road Safety Act as the board re­spon­si­ble for li­cenc­ing of Ves­sels. This is not con­ducive for wa­ter trans­port de­vel­op­ments and sub­se­quent reg­u­la­tion.

There has been no es­tab­lished in­sti­tu­tion with clear func­tions to reg­u­late and en­force safety mea­sures on wa­ter trans­port in Uganda and the cur­rent laws have weak sanc­tions and penal­ties for the of­fend­ers of the laws in mar­itime trans­port.

Hence the need to im­prove and har­monise the leg­is­la­tion in this sub­sec­tor tak­ing into ac­count the emerg­ing trends and en­sure that the law is suf­fi­ciently rel­e­vant to Ugan­da’s de­vel­op­ment plans.

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