Lamu port off to slow start as 13 ships dock in a year

Mv Banyas 1 Lome Vessel at the Lamu port’s Berth Number 1 on October 15, 2022. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NMG

At the time of its official commissioning in July 2021, Kenya’s second commercial port in Lamu was billed as a game-changer in tra.

Transshipment involves large vessels docking at the port and redistributing their cargo to smaller ships that serve regional ports.

It mainly happens when there is no direct connection between ports.

But so far, only 13 ships have docked at the port, with the latest one being the MV Banyas 1 ship which will transport live animals to Oman today.

The port has handled 1,821 twenty-foot container equivalent units (TEUs) and 213 tonnes of conventional cargo.

The slow rise in ship traffic and business at the port has seen the government approach more operators and shippers to market and position the Lamu port as competitive among its regional peers.

The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) has been on a charm offensive targeting to demystify doubts about the facility’s viability.

Lamu port is a key part of the wider Lamu Port South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) Corridor, which is being implemented at a total cost of Sh2.5 trillion ($24 billion) and mainly targets transshipment cargo.

Lamu Cargo Operations manager Peter Masinde yesterday said the arrival of the Mv Banyas shows the confidence shipping lines have in the facility.

Mr Masinde said the latest arrival will signal other shipping lines to consider Lamu as the preferred port of call.

So far, ships belonging to Maersk, CGM CMA and AMU have called on the port.

Among the ships that have been received at the Lamu Port since inception are MV CAP Carmel, Seago Bremerhaven, MV Amu 1 (first trip), MV Spirit of Dubai, MV Seago Pireaus, MV Amu 1 (second trip), MV Seago Istanbul, Ionian Express, Zuhra II, MV Amu 1 (third trip) and MV Songa Cougar.

Lamu port is also the anchor facility for the Lapsset project that seeks to create a logistical corridor from the port to South Sudan and Ethiopia.

The official added that the port will open dedicated berths to handle specialised cargo as the facility seeks to attract more business from the region.

“We are engaging different agencies to secure other types of exports like refrigerated fruits and flowers. Those who have shown interest include the World Food Programme to use the Lamu port as a distribution hub.

“We also have a client in the coal business who would want to mix different grades of the product at our facility for export. KPA is also marketing Lamu port as a viable car importation option to supplement the Mombasa Port,” Mr Masinde said.

The authority has also been in talks with the Saudi Ports Authority on accelerating connectivity and trade between ports of Jeddah, Mombasa, and Lamu.

KPA recently acquired a new Sh1.2 billion tugboat for use in Lamu for berthing and unberthing of ships.

Lamu initially relied on the dispatch of tugs from Mombasa port whenever a vessel called to facilitate services such as pilotage and tugging, contributing to high operational costs and time. However, it is yet to be dispatched to Lamu because of the slow business at the facility.

Increasing bottlenecks and inaccessibility of Lamu port has made the facility to only handle a few vessels with lack of adequate roads and rail to haul cargo from Lamu port forcing KPA to use the facility as a transshipment port, thus attracting minimal clients.

Kenya has structured the remaining 29 berths to be handed over to private sector investors for financing, construction, and operation.

KPA says it is ready to handle any vessel at the Lamu port after it installed cargo handling machines, including panamax and post-panamax vessels with a capacity of more than 10,000 containers.

“In the Lamu port, we have ensured we have an all-round team. We are still at the inception phase and the berths are multipurpose. We are also training staff to be versatile in handling conventional, containerised and bulk consignments,” Mr Masinde said.

Lamu port is strategically located at the middle of major shipping routes with deep water harbour on the East coast of Africa, thus being a premier transshipment hub for all cargo destined for the continent.

KPA is also acquiring and installing ICT equipment such as system application products, allocation of offices for government agencies and cargo interveners.

In its 2022 cargo commodity forecast, KPA targets to handle 0.2 million metric tonnes of liquid bulk, 0.2 million dry bulk and a similar amount for general cargo.

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