Optimism as Lamu port project nears completion

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Construction works of the first three Lamu port berths are complete with handover and commissioning of the Sh. 42 billion project expected in December 2020.

A tour by KNA of the Lamu Port project revealed that the three berths are complete, while construction of the container yards for berth 2 and 3 is ongoing where dredging works is underway alongside construction   of part of the 1.2 Kilometre causeway.

The project has remained on course despite the global economic slowdown that COVID-19 crisis has wrought upon government projects across the country, with the project receiving a further shot in the arm, where Sh 6 billion funding has been earmarked by the treasury for the 2020/2021 financial year.

Foreign affairs principal secretary macharia kamau (blue shirt) flanked by lapseet regional manager Salim Bunu and Housing PS Charles Hinga during a recent visit of the Lamu Port Project in Kililana which is near complete with commissioning works expected in December this year

“The LAPSSET project has the confidence of the President who understands the sum of the LAPSSET’s parts in enabling the country achieve its status as a burgeoning middle income economy. it is illustrated in his administration’s political and economic support despite the tough economic times that the country and the whole world is experiencing,” Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport Corridor project (LAPSSET), Director General (DG), Sylvester Kasuku intimates.

Speaking exclusively to KNA, the LAPSSET DG Kasuku, further underscored that the construction and completion of the first three berths, presents a strong case for private sector involvement in constructing the remaining 29 berths and other components of the corridor such as the Special Economic Zone (SEZ).

“The Special Economic Zone which has already been gazette, will be situated in the Lamu Port City and will in turn, provide an ideal Freight Logistic hub, an Industrial hub, Information-Communication and Technology park and a world class tourist and recreational Zone, once the Lamu Port becomes operational,” Kasuku further divulged.

It is expected that once the Lamu Port is handed over and commissioned, it will begin its operations, initially as a transshipment hub for global shipping lines that will be supported by a special economic zone.

He acknowledged that the project, though has not been without criticism with a section of reports, hedging that the LAPSSET project was likely to meet its Waterloo, based on logistics and freight competition from the already established Port of Djibouti and the planned Bagamoyo harbour in Tanzania.

“We have to understand the regional (East African) economy, is on the upward trend with it, there is a growing need to improve on the already existing, infrastructure that includes the ports, the roads, the pipeline and the railways,  if you understand the purview of the LAPSSET project,” he states, adding that the ports being built in the other countries, only serves to reinforce the logic of the need of interconnecting infrastructure across the region.

A chinese construction communication company barge docked at the second berth of the Lamu port where berth works for rhe three givernment owned berths are complete with 2nd and 3rd container yards to be complete by October this year

The LAPSSET Director General further observed that, no economic power has ever risen with the use of only one port, stating that the Lamu Port will enhance the country’s capacity as a transshipment and logistics hub in the East African corridor.

“The LAPSSET project which cuts across six counties of, Lamu, Garissa, Isiolo, Samburu and Turkana will be a socioeconomic game changer for them, besides the wider region of Southern Sudan and Lower Ethiopia as well as lot of investment both in terms of infrastructure from the Public and Private sector,” Kasuku noted.

“It is only when you are on the ground can you see the impact that the Lamu Port is having within the county, with hundreds of jobs already created, and more to follow once the project is commissioned,” he noted.

Sentiments echoed by LAPSSET’s Lamu Regional Manager, Salim Bunu, who stated that currently, there are about 800 construction workers on site, working on the container yard for berth 2 and 3.

He acknowledged the progress that has been made in realising the completion of the port despite the economic challenges facing the country. He commended the contractor (Chinese Communication Construction Company) for not slowing down.

The expectation, according to Kenya Ports Authority officials, is that the port will initially employ at least 1,500 people once it becomes operational.

The operations are hinged on Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), bringing place operational equipment such as gantry and crane equipment that will enable ships to begin docking and making use of the new port.

“There is a plan by KPA to bring the cranes and gantry equipment soon, to enable the port begin works,” The General Manager in charge of the Lamu Port Engineer, Abdullahi Samatar, revealed, adding that the cost of moving the equipment from Mombasa is expensive, and being the reason as to why the machines have not been brought yet.

Engineer Samatar, further stated that the size of the three berths would initially be sufficient to supplement the country’s maritime logistical needs, which are currently being served by the Kilindini Port.

“The size of the three container yards for the three berths is larger than what we have in the Mombasa Port presently, which can be prone to getting crowded unless goods are cleared very fast,” the GM said,

The Lamu Port on the contrary, provides the kind of infrastructure that a port, big shipping lines are in pursuit of, when it comes to transshipment.

“Transshipment will be a big business in this country, and is likely to be responsible for thousands of indirect jobs, especially in the country’s maritime sector,” he added.

The promotional tariffs that we are offering are attractive to shipping lines, with only about 30 of the worlds’ largest shipping lines expressing interest to make use of the Lamu Port, once it becomes operational.

Expectations are rife that with the 138 Kilometre Garsen-Lamu-Witu road, currently at 45 percent completion, the transshipment business could soon form one part of the targeted business for the port, there is a growing optimism that the Lamu Port could provide an avenue for the country to make good on its aspirations of being at the forefront of a burgeoning blue economy in the country.

The Garsen-Lamu-Witu road is expected to be complete by August 2022, with the current contractor (H-Young) under pressure to deliver the Sh 10.8 billion road on time.

“We have started investing in building oil and water barges that will provide services to vessels that will dock at the Lamu Port, larger fishing vessels also being built in readiness for blue economy that will be stirred by the Lamu port, once it becomes operational,” Jaffar Shebu, a businessman, who specializes in boat building and containers told KNA.

Sentiments echoed by Lamu County Commissioner, Irungu Macharia, who stated that the Lamu Port will be a boost to Lamu’s economy, both through direct and indirect job creation for local residents.

“This is a project that will connect regions that were previously unconnected through trade and logistics thus burst the myth that Lamu as well as the Northern Corridor counties continue to be marginalised,” the County Commissioner said.

“Towns that are considered backwater areas between the six interconnected counties by LAPSSET, will begin thriving and benefit from increased human and logistical traffic once the road and oil pipeline from Turkana to Lamu is accomplished,” LAPSSET DG observed.

By  Amenya Ochieng

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