A faster pathway for trucks and an efficient rail network look set to change the image of Mombasa Port as Kenya steps up efforts to improve the regional facility.
Plans are at an advanced stage for the construction of a Sh6.1 billion six-lane super highway from Jomvu to Mombasa to speed up movement of goods and passengers.
The Government also plans to construct a dual carriageway of four lanes from Jomvu to Mariakani at a cost of Sh11 billion.
The 11.7km Jomvu-Mombasa superhighway will be constructed along the Northern Corridor between Mombasa and Mariakani weighbridge to address traffic congestion on the Mombasa-Nairobi highway.
The government wants to turn the single-two roadway into a dual carriageway with six lanes to ease transportation of cargo from the port of Mombasa to Nairobi and neighbouring countries of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The superhighway is also expected to improve accessibility to businesses in Mombasa mainland west and the town as well as port activities in the county.
Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said the government was in negotiations with African Development Bank and European Union to secure funding for the key road project.
In an interview with Business Daily at Moi International Airport last week, Mr Macharia said the government has identified a contractor for the project.
“Design for the superhighway has been done and we expect the construction work to begin once we get funds from development partners,” he said.
According to the information from the Kenya National Highways Authority, the construction of the road is expected to cost Sh6.1 billion.
The authority has indicated that construction might start next month and be completed in August 2019.
Proposals for consultancy services for design review, tender administration and supervision of the Sh11bn Jomvu-Mariakani stretch is expected to be opened next month while tenders to be floated before end of year.
Apart from the dual carriageway, the government is expected to construct truck parking area at Miritini and axle load control facilities at Mariakani.
Mr Macharia said the Moi International Airport will have its road — Port Reitz road, completed between May and July this year.
Elsewhere, the evacuation of goods from Mombasa Port is set to take a radical turn with experts warning of “certain death” for container freight stations (CFS) as the standard gauge railways nears completion.
The privately owned CFS facilities where bulk, liquid and containerised goods have been kept upon offloading to help ease congestion at the port may no longer be necessary at all.
According to the Kenya Railways Chief Executive Atanas Maina, the Sh327 billion SGR which will accommodate 1,620 boxed and flat wagons pulled by 43 DF8B freight locomotives will be able to haul 100 times more containers to Nairobi and beyond in a day.
President Uhuru Kenyatta is set to launch the fast trains on June 1 (Madaraka Day).
Mr Maina said that each cargo locomotive (DF8B) was capable of towing 216 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) weighing an estimated 4,000 tonnes per trip and it is estimated that in top operation, the Mombasa Port will see 22 million tonnes cargo moved annually against the current 1.6 million.
To facilitate faster clearance, the government also directed that all goods be declared and inspected at the country of origin before shipping thereby reducing the customs clearing time from 15 days to seven days.
The developments also portend bad times for transporters who will have to change base from Mombasa to Nairobi for onward transmission of cargo to upcountry factories and to other East African countries.
But the Kenya Ports Authority has since moved to allay fears of “a big bang” fallout, saying only 40 per cent of the cargo at its yard will initially be allocated to the fast train.
Despite the job loss fears by truckers and CFSs, the government says discharge of goods from the port, the facility which accounts for 93 per cent of Kenya’s international trade, is headed for a positive change.
Mr Macharia said the construction of the Sh11 billion Dongo Kundu bypass project phase one is expected to be completed by the end of this year.
The first phase which is part of the Mombasa Port Area Development Project involves the construction of a 10.1km dual carriageway from Miritini to Kipevu.
Funded by the Japanese government through Japanese International Co-operation Agency (Jica), the construction of the road is being undertaken by China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation.
The port area development project also entails an interchange at Miritini and the entry of Kipevu, rail-over Road Bridge at Miritini, a weighbridge along the Kipevu link road and 1.3km access road to the Moi International Airport.
Mr Macharia said the construction of Dongo Kundu bypass phase one was 45 per cent complete, adding that the project would be completed by end of this year.
When completed, he said the road would address traffic congestion between Miritini and the port of Mombasa.
“The key purpose of Dongo Kundu phase one is to decongest Mombasa port to ensure smooth flow of traffic from Kipevu to Miritini,” he said.
“It will also be easier transportation of cargo from the port destined for Nairobi and neighbouring countries including Uganda and Rwanda,” he added.
Mr Macharia said quicker transportation of cargo from the port would enable importers receive goods within a short period.