The refurbished Port of Kisumu handled 62 per cent more cargo in 2019 due to improved efficiency and a surge in trade, new statistics show.
Kisumu port is a critical hub for trade with the neighbouring countries such as Tanzania and Uganda and by extension Rwanda and Burundi as well those in the Great Lakes Region.
The volume of cargo handled at the revamped Kisumu port jumped to 17,735 tonnes last year, a 62 per cent increase compared to 2018. The rise in cargo was buoyed by a strong second-half performance, reflecting better efficiency and an overall improvement in trade among partner states of the East Africa Community (EAC).
The number of vessels utilising the port also increased to 41 in 2019 compared to 19 the previous year, representing a 116 per cent jump.
Kisumu port was upgraded last year, with work including concreting of the port yard, construction of the quayside, repairs of the linkspan, revamping the dry dock and rehabilitation of all buildings to boost efficiency.
All roads within and the link roads to the port facility have also been repaired and feeder jetties and piers are also being put in place. The port has further been equipped with equipment such as forklift trucks, mobile cranes and tractor-trailers.
“With an added mandate over inland waterways, the authority (KPA) took over Kisumu port from Kenya Railways in 2017; we have just completed phase 1 of the port,” said KPA acting managing director, Rashid Salim.
The Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) has also recently completed a loading jetty connected to its depot on the shores of Lake Victoria in Kisumu with 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).
The upswing in performance is a boon for the Kisumu port which had for close to three decades been hit by a number of factors, including a dilapidated railway infrastructure and impassable and persistent invasion water hyacinth as well as boundary disputes that have turned the fresh water lake into a liability.
In its hey days, the port registered vigorous business activity helped by a reliable railway system and maritime vessels that ferried cargo to ports such as Mwanza and Bukoba in Tanzania and Jinja and Port Bell in Uganda.
The government has since begun a Sh3.7 billion rehabilitation of the old railway line from Nakuru to Kisumu, a project being handled by the Kenya Defense Force in partnership with the Kenya Railways Corporation.
The ongoing refurbishment of the facility in Kisumu as well as planned repair and upgrade of satellite piers in Mbita, Homa Bay and Luanda K’otieno is projected to further improve merchandise trade in the region.
Prior to the collapse of the lake transport system, Homa Bay was a main shipping point for goods to neighbouring Tanzania. Vessels from Kisumu docked in Homa Bay and offloaded cargo which was then transported by truck to the Tanzanian border two hours away.
Mbita and Lunda K’otieno currently host regular ferry services by private firms and the upgrade of facilities in Kisumu is expected to boost trade in merchandise.
Trade between Kenya and its EAC partners has improved steadily into the first quarter of 2020, meaning that demand for Lake Victoria port facilities would remain favourable at least in the medium term.
Kenya’s overall trade with the six-nation EAC grew by 57.7 per cent in the first quarter of this year compared to a similar period in 2019. The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data shows that balance of payments — net exports less net imports — with Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and South Sudan rose to Sh30.86 billion in the three months to March from Sh19.67 billion in a similar period in 2019.
The volume of trade was recorded at Sh54.94 billion during the period up from Sh46.28 billion last year.