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Scottish investor breathes new life into dilapidated L Victoria transport service

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One of the modern boats run by Globology transports passengers on Lake Victoria. PHOTO | COURTESY

One of the modern boats run by Globology transports passengers on Lake Victoria. PHOTO | COURTESY 

By AChepkoech@ke.nationmedia.com

Posted  Tuesday, January 10   2017 at  19:43

In Summary

  • Globology Limited Company has already set a target of building 15 ferries in the next three years to ply Lake Victoria routes.

    After 2019 the firm plans to expand operations to coastal islands and other East African navigable water bodies such as Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania

According to Scottish investor Malcolm Ormiston, Lake Victoria deserves a safe, affordable and convenient mode of transport.

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Mr Ormiston, who runs the Kisumu-based Globology Limited Company, has already set a target of building 15 ferries in the next three years to ply Lake Victoria routes.

The firm designs, builds and operates water transport vessels called catamarans. Catamarans are ferries with two hulls, a design known for fuel efficiency and safety.

Two of Mr Ormiston’s ferries; MV Captain Dan and MV Ringiti, are already operating on the lake under the Water Bus trade name.

The small vessels provide transport service to isolated islands, providing residents an alternative to unsafe canoes and dhows.

Mr Ormiston, a former journalist, said he worked for several years on developing an inexpensive boat that uses low operating technology.

He wanted to enable developing countries to access modern, affordable boats as opposed to the current types used for resource protection, patrols, and transport which are expensive with high operating cost.

And when he settled on the catamaran, Mr Ormiston discovered that it had commercial potential and viability on Lake Victoria.

“After working on it for a number of years using my small inheritance, I brought the wood based composite technology for testing on Lake Victoria in 2005 to find out its commercial potential. We found it viable and decided to undertake passenger transport,” he told the Business Daily.

His firm started the project in Kenya, making boats at a Kisumu workshop, with the help of a private fund.
Its first vessel, MV Dan launched in 2010, plies the Mageta Island to Usenge route in Siaya County.

The second vessel, MV Ringiti, plies the Mfangano Island to Mbita route in Homa Bay County.

“The catamaran has a wide beam which gives it more stability than conventional mono-hull vessels,” said Mr Ormiston, adding that it has two engines for safer operation. The boats are an alternative to the poorly-maintained passenger canoes built of hardwood with no safety equipment; they have no lifejackets and do not shelter passengers from the vagaries of weather.

“If such a vessel were to be imported, it would cost at least Sh200 million. If we were to sell one (that we make locally) it would be more than Sh50 million. But we are not looking to sell because our core business is operating ferries. Building is just part of the necessary process,” said Mr Ormiston.

The company attracted new investment from a Netherlands private equity fund which will enable it to make 15 boast over the next five years.

Two boats are currently under construction at the company’s Kisumu workshop, each with a capacity of 120 passengers.

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