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Infrastructure projects set to transform Lamu into a key port town

Massive infrastructure projects taking shape in the Lamu archipelago as an unparalleled speed are set to make the region a maritime transport hub.

The Vision 2030 Delivery Secretariat Director-General (DG) Kenneth Mwige says the ongoing construction of specialized port infrastructure, roads and airport expansion projects are intended to improve connectivity, scale-up Lamu port’s competitiveness and attract investments.

Speaking during a media tour of Lamu Port and other LAPSSET projects organised by the office of the Government Spokesperson and Kenya Port Authority (KPA), Mwige said the area is opening up as ‘a hub for regional transshipment trade’ following the operationalization of berth No. 1 of Lamu port.

A barge anchored at the port of Lamu offloading crucial marine equipment for handling cargo transfers to ships, barges, and trucks at the new port. Photo by Mohamed Hassan

Present during the two-day tour were Government Spokesperson Col (Rtd) Cyrus Oguna, Lamu Port Project Manager Eng. Dan Amadi and top KPA and LAPSEET Corridor Development Authority officials.

President Uhuru Kenyatta in May 2021 launched berth No 1 and container terminal No 1 in Manda Bay at an elaborate ceremony.

The Lamu media tour comes on the backdrop of a high-level regional meeting that took place at the UN Conference Center in Addis Ababa Ethiopia that brought together Regional Ministers, Ambassadors, Development Banks, Senior Government Officials and AU High Representative for Infrastructure Development Raila Odinga.

The regional meeting is aimed at coming up with a framework for the implementation of the LAPSSET project and also marketing the new Lamu port.

Mwige said the multibillion Lamu port codenamed Lamu South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) corridor stands to transform the historical port town’s position in the global maritime transport system.

The DG noted that the medieval historic town of Lamu is set to experience a huge expansion of massive infrastructural developments thanks to the recent unveiling of the multibillion shilling mega port project.

LAPSSET is a crucial Kenya Vision 2030 flagship project that seeks to transform regional economies through increased trade, integration and inter-connectivity spanning Kenya, South Sudan and landlocked Ethiopia and beyond.

Mwige says the government has elaborate plans to transform Lamu into a key transshipment hub for the region and is expected to compete for transshipment business with existing regional ports such as the Port of Durban in South Africa, the Port of Djibouti and the Port of Salalah in Oman.

He said the new grandiose port will boost economic activities in Lamu and beyond, create jobs for the youth and eliminate congestion at the port of Mombasa.

“We urge local and international investors to come and pitch tent in Lamu as the new modern port is expected to revolutionize the economy of the region,” said Mwige.

The Vision 2030 DG noted that the massive infrastructure projects underway calls for significant public and private sector investments in the new port and create new jobs and expand businesses through investment in public infrastructure.

“All these investments are vital to strengthen and modernize the country’s maritime infrastructure and ensure our ports remain competitive worldwide,” he said.

Among the major projects underway include the Lamu-Garissa Road which falls under the Lamu and Garissa Counties and is a section of the LAPSSET corridor, having a total length of about 453 kilometers worth Sh17.9 billion.

On-going construction works of container stacking yards at the port of Lamu. Photo by Mohamed Hassan

The road starts at Mokowe and traverses the Eastern side of Tana River and in some of its section it crosses trading centers in Hindi, Barigonu, Bodhei, Ijara, Roka, Bura, Nanighi and Korakora before terminating at junction 13 kilometers from Garissa town.

The road project is a gateway to the LAPSSET corridor and provides connectivity to other parts of Kenya through railway and highway.

Other projects underway include the expansion works of the archipelago’s Manda airport by upgrading and widening the existing one-kilometer runway and the addition of a new two-kilometer runway to support tourism and business activities.

The new runway, which has been designed to handle larger and heavier aircrafts, is hoped to increase the historic town’s appeal as a fly-in destination.

Oguna says the ongoing upgrades of roads along the LAPSSET corridor will enhance security and aid in the evacuation of cargo from the port of Lamu to the hinterland.

He said the tarmacking of the Sh10.8 billion 114km Garsen-Witu-Lamu road project is anticipated to open up the region and end the insecurity menace.

A view of the newly constructed 114km Garsen-Lamu road at Kibaoni area which is expected to help in the evacuation of cargo from the port of Lamu. Photo by Mohamed Hassan

“Criminal groups have been planting improvised explosive devices as roadside bombs along the earthen roads which would now be a thing of the past,” Oguna said.

Oguna said the Garsen-Lamu road is an important trade corridor for traffic headed from Nairobi, South Sudan and Ethiopia, to the Lamu port and is a component of the Lamu-Moyale Highway, part of LAPSSET.

Eng. Geoffrey Namadoa, a senior KPA Marine Pilot says the port of Lamu will receive the third vessel on July 4 from CMA CGM as three shipping lines positions are expected to start handling freight by transporting cargo handling equipment to the facility.

“The vessel from the former Soviet Union is expected to collect about 50 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) from Zanzibar to the Far West,” said Captain Namodoa.

This will be the third vessel to dock at the new port after MV CAP Carmel and MV Seago Bremerhaven made their maiden call in early May this year.

“The new facility is envisaged to have a total of 23 modern deep-sea berths with a quay length of 400 metres each,” added the KPA official.

Eng. Namadoa said phase one of the project comprises three berths with the first already operational and the remaining two expected to be ready by end of October 2021.

He said the mega port will position Lamu as an important regional transshipment hub, poised to handle crude and refined oil and oil products from South Sudan and has the potential to impact on the livelihoods of the people of Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan.

“KPA will continue to develop the capacity of Lamu port which currently has the capacity to handle jumbo-sized ships with carrying capacity of between 12,000 to 18,000 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEUs) ships,” Captain Namadoa said.

The senior KPA official disclosed that the authority has already sent to Lamu crucial marine equipment for handling cargo transfers to ships, barges, and trucks as the new port is set to experience a peak in activities and handle international shipments.

Eng. Namadoa said the grandiose Lamu port has the capabilities to handle post-panamax ships from the international shipping lines that ply the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea.

On his part, Eng Amadi said in the long run massive development of tourist hotels, international airport, oil refinery depots and a standard gauge railway line are all set to sprout in Lamu transforming its fortunes.

By Mohamed Hassan

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