Tanzania now threat to Kisumu Port operations

Transport experts have warned that Tanzania could be playing protectionism for its Mwanza, Musoma and Bukoba Lake facilities.

In Summary

•Kenya is keen to use Kisumu Port for moving inbound cargo and transit cargo through the Port of Mombasa to Uganda.

•Tanzania is equally readying to secure a transit market for cargo imported through the Dar es Salaam and Tanga ports, posing a major competition for Kenya.

MV Uhuru at Kisumu Port
MV Uhuru at Kisumu Port

Chances of Kisumu Port breaking even on transit cargo into the hinterland remain uncertain as competition from Tanzania’s lake ports remain imminent, amid lack of political goodwill from the neighbour.

With President Uhuru Kenyatta set to commission the refurbished Sh700 million port facilities anytime this month, it has emerged Tanzania is reluctant to support Kenya’s ambitions of coming up with the facility which is part of the Lake Victoria water transport network.

Transport experts have warned that Tanzania could be playing protectionism for its Mwanza, Musoma and Bukoba Lake facilities as it eyes landlocked Uganda as a key transit destination through Entebbe, Port Bell and Jinja.

“With more than three key facilities on Lake Victoria, Tanzania is focused on ensuring it captures a sizable transit market,” a Tanzanian official who spoke on anonymity, for fear of reprisal, told the Star last Saturday.

While Kenya is keen to use Kisumu Port for moving inbound and transit cargo imported through the Port of Mombasa to Uganda, Tanzania is equally striving  to secure a transit market for cargo imported through  Dar es Salaam and Tanga ports, posing a major competition for Kenya.

Kenya counts on the Northern Corridor which runs from Mombasa into Uganda, Rwanda and other landlocked countries while Tanzania is pushing volumes through the Central Corridor, which connects the region’s landlocked countries to  Dar es Salaam.

The two countries are scrambling for Uganda which according to Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) managing director Daniel Manduku, it accounts for 82.1 per cent of the total transit cargo through the port of Mombasa.

“Uganda remains the predominant transit destination through the port of Mombasa with a total transit traffic of 7.89 million tonnes in 2018 up from 7.11 million tonnes in 2017,” Manduku told port stakeholders in a recent Nairobi forum.

Kenya has already lost about 20 per cent of its petroleum products export business in recent years.

KPA is however confident Kisumu Port is viable and will be instrumental in regional trade.

“Transport along lake Victoria can only be competitive if all the three country’s lake ports are in good shape. Business across the lake is dependent on who trades with who in terms of imports and exports .Thus the trade scenario on land transport between these countries will still be replicated across the lake,” KPA head of corporate affairs Bernard Osero told the Star yesterday.

The authority has affirmed its readiness for operationalisation of the revamped Kisumu Port, as government remains focused in reviving maritime activities at Lake Victoria.

Kisumu port can handle 50,000 TEUs or an equivalent of 200,000 metric tonnes.

 “It (Kisumu Port) will handle all types of cargo,” Manduku told the Star said, which includes both containerized and conventional Cargo.

TradeMark East Africa has vouched for Kisumu Port even as it called for improvement on all Lake port facilities.

“The Kisumu port is served by the Northern Corridor and would attract transit cargo traffic to Uganda and Northern Tanzania. The ports in Tanzania which are primarily served by the Central Corridor will attract transit cargo destined for Uganda, DRC and South Sudan,” said Sjoerd Visser, TMEA director-Great Lakes.

“Much of the physical infrastructure in the lake ports is currently in a dilapidated state. All the ports are based on traditional general cargo traffic except for the ports of Port Bell, Jinja, Kisumu and Mwanza which were initially developed for rail wagon RoRo traffic and equipped with a linkspan,” Sjoerd added.

Uhuru is expected to open the port alongside his Tanzanian, Ugandan and DRC counterparts Magufuli, Yoweri Museveni and Felix Tshisekedi.

According to TMEA, water transport is the cheapest and most inclusive mode of transport. Unfortunately, water transport is also one of the most under-developed and under-utilised modes of transport in East Africa.

“Although Lake Victoria is strategically located at the convergence of the Northern Corridor and the Central Corridor, its potential for marine transport has not been exploited. Freight traffic on Lake Victoria is modest mainly due to poor infrastructure of port handling facilities and few vessels,” Visser said.