Kenya’s new $2.8bn Lamu port starts operations

4th June 2021 By: John Muchira - Creamer Media Correspondent

Kenya has achieved a major milestone in its quest to become East Africa’s regional logistics hub with the commissioning of the new Lamu port.

The country operationalised the first berth of the new port, which forms part of the $23-billion Lamu Port–South Sudan– Ethiopia Transport corridor project, launched in 2012.

When completed, the $2.8-billion port will have 32 berths – 29 of which will be financed by the private sector – making it the largest deep-water port in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Kenya government is financing the construction of the first three berths at a cost of $367-million.

“The Lamu port has the potential to become a premier transshipment hub for all cargo destined for the continent. Further, Lamu now joins the Port of Mombasa as a key entry and exit point for cargo, deep into and out of Africa’s hinterland,” said President Uhuru Kenyatta when he commissioned the facility last month.

The facility will connect South Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya, and there are plans to link it to the planned Middle Belt of Africa, which will run from Dakar, Senegal, in the west, to Lamu, in the east.

Soon after commissioning, the Maersk-operated MV Cap Carmel and MV Seago Bremerhavel became the first and second vessels to dock at the new port.

The MV Cap Carmel, a Singaporean container ship, docked at Lamu on its way from the Port of Dar es Salam, in Tanzania, to Salalah, in Oman.

On the other hand, the MV Seago Bremerhavel was hauling a cargo of premium Kenyan avocadoes to France.

The Lamu port was originally designed to be a $2.8-billion project that would be implemented over 16 years and have 32 berths, enabling it to handle 24-million containers a year.

Delays in implementation have changed the dynamics of ports in the wider East African region, with Tanzania, Djibouti, Somalia and Eritrea investing in port facilities to serve the region, which could threaten the viability of the Lamu port.

“As we witness the operationalisation of the port, I remember some doubting Thomases who questioned its viability, wondering if it can ever be built. They should stop wondering; we are here. And those who doubt its viability just as they doubted our ability to build it will also be put to shame,” said Kenyatta.

With Berth 1 now operational, Kenya intends to complete Berth 2 and Berth 3 in July and October respectively. Chinese company China Communications Construction Company is implementing the project.