Controversy surrounds Lamu port ahead commissioning

Lapsset authority announced completion of the first berth on August 6

In Summary

• Transport CS James Macharia and the Lamu-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor authority have differed on completion of the remaining two berths.

• Locals have questioned the hiring process ahead of the commission of the first berth in October.

Workers at the proposed Lamu port project site
Workers at the proposed Lamu port project site
Image: FILE

Confusion has marred construction of the remaining two of the first three berths at the Lamu Port after completion of the first berth last month.

The hiring of staff ahead of the first berth's commissioning has also elicited mixed reactions.

The Lamu-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET) development authority, on August 6, announced the first berth at the planned 32berth port facility was 100 per cent complete.


What remains is equipping of the berth. Transaction advisory services were procured to package the port for private sector entry to operate the port,” Lapsset authority told the Star.

The contractor–China Communication Construction Company(CCCC) has embarked on development of the remaining two berths as the government seeks to put up the first three berths, hoping for private sector and financiers' support in construction of the remaining 29.

While construction is underway, the Transport Ministry and Lapsset have given Kenyans and investors contradictory timelines for the completion.

Transport CS James Macharia ,during the recent launch of the Kenya Ports Authority's 30-year (2018-2047) master plan in Mombasa, said the remaining berths will be completed in October.

"Works on the second and third berth are expected to be completed in October and we shall be going there [in Lamu] to officially commission the project later in the year," Macharia said.

Lapsset authority has however indicated the remaining two will be completed next year, a move that brings confusion over the project's timelines.

“Berth 2 & 3 will be completed by December 2020,” the authority said during the announcement of berth one completion.


Yesterday, Lapsett told the Star: “The reamining two berths are at around 70 per cent complete. The Lamu port access road connecting to the Lamu garden road is on course all expected to to be complete by 2020 when the three berths will be completed.”

This comes amid a slow dredging process and release of funds which could affect the completion of the two berths.

CCCC is depending on material dredged from the channel to reclaim the sea where the berths are being constructed.

The hiring process of workers ahead of the commissioning of the first berth has been hit with controversies, even as Kenya Ports Authority(KPA) expects the first ship to dock at the facility on October 20, with some reports indicating it could change to a later date in Novermber.

The ongoing secret hiring process at Lamu Port is going to tarnish the image of Kenya. As Lamu residents we demand transparency in the process Otherwise we're going to protest at the launch in October,” said Abuu Jidal, a social justice activist and resident of Lamu.

The government is also at logger head with local fishermen who are seeking compesation, claiming the project has affected their livelihoods.

While fishermen are seeking cash compesation, Lapsset insists they should be given modern fishing equipment, boats and engines to venture into other areas.

In May last year. the High Court sitting in Malindi ordered the government to pay Sh1.76 billion in compensation to 4,600 fishermen in Lamu County affected by the project.

The four-judge bench ordered the government to make full payment within one year from the judgment date.

“Nothing has happened so far. There is still a stalemate,” a fisherman who sought anonimity told the Star.

The fishermen have claimed dredging at the port site has violated the Lamu community’s cultural, fishing and health rights.

The Chinese firm has been on site since 2015 after securing a Sh49.7 billion contract, in August 2014, to construct the first three berths.

The port is part of the Sh2.5 trillion Lapsset corridor project launched in 2012 during former President Mwai Kibaki's regime.

The project has been marred with cash constraints since its launch as Ethiopia seems more focused on infraastracture linking it with Ddjibouti.

The government, through the African Union (AU) High Representative on Infrastructure Development Raila Odinga, has now turned to the continental union for investors and regional support for the mega project.

Meanwhile, KPA has extended promotional tariffs for Lamu Port as it seeks to lure shippers and transporters to the facility.

The corridor is however faced with infrastructural challenges and insecurity mainly caused by the Al-shabaab militants.

The Kenya Long Distance Truck Drivers Association has warned its drivers are most likely to keep off Lamu port.

We are afraid there will be frequent attacks and loss of cargo,” the association's chairman Nicholas Mbugua told the Star on phone.

Over 30 global shipping lines are expected to tour the port facility ahead of its launch in October.

The Lamu Port is expected to be fully be operational by 2021. It is expected to open markets in Ethiopia and South Sudan.

Accordig to KPA managing director Daniel Manduku, the port will comprise general cargo, liquid bulk, and dry bulk facilities.