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Operations At Lamu Seaport kicks off

It’s a new dawn as the country’s second commercial multi-billion-shilling Lamu seaport after the port of Mombasa starts operations in earnest.

Hopes are high among maritime stakeholders as the new strategic port that has already gobbled up Sh.50 billion of taxpayers’ money appears set to stake its claim as a major international transshipment hub in the region.

Maritime experts contend that the grandiose modern port of Lamu will catapult Kenya into the league of key global transshipment and commercial maritime hubs.

Lamu port to be operated by the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) will be the focal point of a massive regional transshipment hub capable of accommodating goods being transported by sea, rail, land and air.

It’s 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.

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

The Head of State witnessed the offloading and loading of two ships simultaneously and later handed the Captain of MV Cap Carmel a Certificate of First Call to complete a historic day.

It was fanfare as two giant ships christened MV Cap Carmel and Seago Line made their maiden calls at the new facility setting the stage for Lamu to becoming a key global trade route

The brand new Lamu berths are designed to handle 30,000 Deadweight Tonnage (DWT) and 100,000 DWT suitable for post-panamax ships for general and bulk and containerized cargo respectively.

KPA Acting Managing Director (MD) Eng. Rashid Salim termed the inauguration of the deep seaport code-named Lamu South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) corridor ‘a boost for regional trade’.

He says it’s poised to be one of the largest ports in the continent in terms of ships handling capacity and tonnage of cargo that will be moved through the facility.

“The new port also opens up the northern frontier counties of Garissa, Wajir, Mandera, Isiolo and Marsabit to more trade and economic activity through the creation of a new transport corridor” he said.

He said the new port will expand the import and export corridor and develop markets for inland countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

The KPA MD says the port of Lamu is envisaged to have a total of 23 modern berths with a quay length of 400 metres each.

Phase one of the project comprises three berths with the first already operational and the remaining two expected to be ready by end of this year.

He said phase two will have 16 berths including three bulk, three containers, six general cargo, one liquid bulk, one coal, one Liquefied natural gas (LNG) and one product oil.

The final phase of Lamu port will see the construction of four berths comprising one container and three general cargo berths.

The new transport and economic corridor is expected to enhance connectivity and facilitate trade between Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan and adjoining states.

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

Eng. Salim said the newly inaugurated Lamu seaport is expected to start-full scale operations when two more berths are commissioned before the end of the year.

“Work is being accelerated on berths No 2 and 3 and is expected to be operational by the end of the year” he said revealing that construction of 23 more deep-water berths are in the pipeline.

He said the new port of call developed by the China Communications Construction Company had already commenced operations in a limited way and the growth potential was huge.

The MD said global shipping lines such as the Maersk shipping line, a Danish integrated shipping company, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), COSCO (China Ocean Shipping Company) French shipping giant CMA CGM among others have declared interest in the brand-new port.

“We are excited that these large shipping companies are going to ensure a dedicated service for the new port which will improve the service level and port coverage for our clients” he said.

He said the new port made using superior infrastructure and equipped with modern advanced port technologies will allow for shipping lines to conduct direct shipment thus cementing its position as a leading regional transshipment hub.

A view of berth No 1 ready to receive ships as Lamu port breathes new life. Photo by Hussein Abdullahi

“We are confident that the newly unveiled seaport will emerge as the connecting point for larger vessels plying international waterways,” he said in an interview with KNA Friday.

He went on, ‘the new port has a huge potential for business since it is located right in the middle of major shipping lanes for global trade’.

Eng.Salim stated that maritime transport is a critical infrastructure for the social and economic development noting that Lamu port will give established regional transshipment ports a run for their money since it’s a ‘deep-water port capable of accommodating jumbo-sized ships’.

Eng. Salim noted that the new port will complement the existing Mombasa port and facilitate import and export activities in the region and reduce the costs of doing business.

“It is good news for the shipping sector that the new Lamu port will in the long run reduce traffic congestion at the Mombasa port and help increase revenue for the government,” he said.

Eng. Salim says KPA is working closely with the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and other relevant state agencies in offering incentives to shipping lines docking at the new facility.

“As KPA we assure investors targeting the new facility that we will be offering free storage period of over 30 days and tax rebates to woo shipping lines” he said, adding that they are committed to make it more favourable to private sector participation.

Lamu Governor Fahim Twaha says the operationalization of the port will transform the medieval fishing archipelago into a modern port town.

Twaha said the move to construct Lamu port has long been seen as a ‘big gamble that has finally come to fruition’.

“We expect massive infrastructure development in the Lamu archipelago as the new port opens up as a hub for regional transshipment trade” he said.

The county boss says massive development of tourist hotels, international airport, oil refinery depots and a standard gauge railway line are all set to sprout in Lamu transforming the fortunes of the island dwellers.

“The port will breathe new life into the Lamu archipelago and our youth will benefit from direct and indirect jobs arising out of it,” he said.

By Hussein Abdullahi

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