Shipping & Logistics

Port revival promises to reignite once vibrant Kisumu trade

Kisumu port
The Kisumu port was previously a key pillar of the regional economy. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The Kisumu Port is projected to handle more than 95,000 tonnes of cargo by 2022 as Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) seeks to restore the once vibrant transport service connecting East African countries and the Great Lakes region.

The port, which is currently being rehabilitated at a cost of Sh3 billion, seeks to make Lake Victoria navigable and open up intra-regional trade with the existing sufficient space being capable of increasing cargo traffic to more than 236,000 tonnes by the end of KPA's 30-year Master Plan.

Investments by Kenyan and Ugandan governments along Lake Victoria will in the next few years be expected to reignite the triangular trade between Kisumu, Jinja (Uganda) and Mwanza in Tanzania with oil trade anticipated to be a major source of income to the revamped Kisumu Port.

Uganda is already building a four-million-tonne badge to evacuate oil from the Kisumu jetty and the investment would increase East Africa intra-trade after the Kenya Pipeline Company launched a Sh570 million new and broader pipeline few years ago.

The Kisumu depot on Lake Victoria's shore has a storage capacity of 39,243 cubic metres of fuel for local use and export to Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).


Kenya Transport Secretary James Macharia said the Kisumu Port will depend on other Northern Corridor’s road and railway infrastructure.

"The government will upgrade existing port infrastructure to achieve its target but to achieve this we should complement it with road and railway. We are expecting to invest more on railway and talks are at advanced stage," said Mr Macharia.

Last year in June, the East Africa Community (EAC) heads of State resolved during the 14th Summit of the Northern Corridor Integration Projects held in Nairobi to invest more in road and rail projects and identified Lake Victoria as a crucial transport corridor in the shipment of general cargo into and out of the region. They also sought joint investments in the lake inter-modal transport system.

According to the KPA Kisumu development plan, a roll on/roll off (Ro-Ro) terminal that will facilitate loading and offloading from ships designed to carry wheeled cargo like cars will be constructed.

The government is also set to construct a small boat landing sites for fish collection.

The Kisumu port, which was established in 1901, was previously a key pillar of the regional economy with ships docking with billions of cargo and employing hundreds of people. However, all these disappeared when the port collapsed, a fate attributed to the collapse of the old railway line terminating at the Kisumu pier.

This resulted to the grounding of Kenya's ferry wagon MV Uhuru, Tanzania’s MV Umoja and Uganda's MV Kabalega and Kaawa which interlinked the three countries through their Port Bell, Jinja, Bukoba and Mwanza ports.

According to the KPA in its port performance figures for 2018, the port only handled 12,000 tonnes of fertiliser exported to Uganda, 240 tonnes of Magadi soda, 108 tonnes of heavy machinery headed to Tanzania and two tonnes of assorted cargo and bottle filing machine.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni, Tanzania's Pombe Magufuli and Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo were scheduled to open the upgraded Kisumus port on today but the event was postponed to undisclosed date.