The delayed completion of a 200km stretch of the Lamu-Garissa-Isiolo Road could be impeding Lamu Port from finding its footing as a regional transshipment hub.
The 530km route is part of the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) corridor project which will eventually link the new commercial port through Garissa to Isiolo and end at Lokichar in Turkana where it will join the Eldoret-Juba highway.
Lamu port is the anchor Lapsset project but its efficiency is highly dependent on this transit highway to feed and evacuate cargo from the new berths to the hinterland. Business Daily has learnt that works on the section have been delayed as a result of lack of financing. The entire project was to take about four years to be completed after works started in mid-2018.
Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) general manager, operations, Sudi Mwasinago in an interview said it is important the port and the highway are developed simultaneously.
“The port has not been very busy because of connectivity issues. The 200km section is not paved but is passable. The port has been cut off from the hinterland because of that section which is critical to the entire circuit. Sporadic insecurity incidents also led to delays which affected movement in the area,” Mr Mwasinango said.
KPA is also equipping the port whose three berths are complete with modern equipment to spur growth and better handle the increase in general and containerised cargo. The authority plans to purchase three mobile cranes, three ship-to-shore gantry cranes (STS), three rubber tyred gantry cranes, salvage and tug boats and four-terminal tractors.
Lamu port General Manager Vincent Sidai and Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport (LAPSSET) Corridor project Regional Manager Salim Bunu said more security surveillance have seen operations improve in the last two months.
At least 11 ships have docked at the facility. They include MV CAP Carmel, Seago Bremerhaven, MV Amu 1 (first trip), MV Spirit of Dubai, MV Seago Pireaus, MV Amu 1 (second trip), MV Seago Instanbul, Ionian Express, Zuhra II, MV Amu 1 (third trip) and MV Songa Cougar.
More ships are also expected to dock before the end of the year. Mr Sidai said marketing strategies have been heightened, especially after key Lapsset Corridor components were operationalized by the government about a year ago. Other completed Lapsset Corridor components are the Isiolo Airport, the Moyale One-Stop Border Post, and the Isiolo-Moyale-Hawassa Highway.
“We have been away for some weeks in UAE and Qatar. We held talks with various investors and as a result, Mwani Qatar officials under the Qatar Investment Authority have accompanied us to inspect the Lamu port as they seek for possible areas to invest in this facility. While in Qatar, the investment authority there settled upon investing heavily in renewable energy, tourism, and other port-related businesses along the Lapsset corridor,” said Mr Sidai.
Separately, at least 1,000 youth within the Lapsset corridor will be absorbed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) job market periodically in an exchange program aimed at boosting the performance of the project.
Lapsset Director General Stephen Ikua said the program is in the form of internships and employment in the UAE market in order to acquire the requisite skills required in the operations and management of the Lapsset Corridor investments.
“This is part of the efforts to ensure there is business cooperation and at the same time, the repatriation of the skills acquired by the youth beneficiaries back to Kenya now that the Lamu Port and other components have been operationalized,” said Mr Ikua. He said they were also engaging the Kenyan embassies for more international investors to invest in the petroleum sector via the Lamu port.
“Established international companies like Wiseneft, Golden Oil, and many others that major in the petroleum sector have shown interest in setting up operations in Lamu Port for shipping, storage, and handling petroleum products destined for the hinterland markets.