INFRASTRUCTURE

Lamu Port, roads ready for operations — authorities

President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to commission the first berth at Lamu Port on November 8, with the first ship expected to berth next month.

In Summary

•The first berth at the new Lamu Port is ready with construction of the remaining two of the first three berths at an advanced stage, Lapsset has said.

•World’s largest container shipping company―Maersk has confirmed one of its vessels (the first) will be calling at the new port.

The Lamu Port-Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) Development Authority has now assured the business community of a well-organized cargo evacuation strategy from the Lamu Port ahead of its commissioning next month.

Lapsset director general and CEO Silvester Kasuku says infrastructure is in place to ensure smooth transportation for both domestic and transit cargo, with southern Ethiopia and South Sudan being major destinations.

Speaking to the Star yesterday, Kasuku said security has also been beefed up along the Lamu-Garsen-Garissa-Isiolo route, the latest transport corridor in the country, expected to connect Kenya to Ethiopia while serving the northern region of the country.

This week, the authority led by Kasuku together with the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA), led by director general Peter Mundinia, mapped key routes for cargo evacuation from the new port, expected to be commissioned by President Uhuru Kenyatta on November 8.

The two authorities toured the Lamu-Garsen road and Garsen-Garissa road. They also inspected the Garissa-Modagashe-Isiolo road.

 “I can confirm that we have immediate off-take road for Lamu Port. There are just a few areas that will be worked on between Hola and Garissa within two weeks,” Kasuku said.

The government is tarmacking the 135-kilometre Lamu-Garsen road, the main road connecting Lamu to the rest of the coastal region and other parts of Kenya, where work is ongoing.

Kenha is however confident the road can commence handling cargo in its current state.

“Most of the road is paved and the remaining sections are ongoing but motorable at all weather conditions. The contractors have been instructed to maintain the road ahead of works for smooth of flow of traffic,” Mundinia said.

“The entire road is motorable for all classes of traffic including heavy commercial vehicles and therefore road users are encouraged to use it .The road links are good and have performance based contractors on them to ensure that serviceability levels are highly maintained,” he added.

This comes even as the Kenya Long Distance Truck Drivers Association remains skeptical of the region over security. The association has insisted on the safety of its members (drivers).

 “We are afraid there could be attacks and loss of cargo,” Chairman Nicholas Mbugua told the Star on phone.

 However, Kasuku yesterday assured the business community and transporters of their safety.

“Security will be handled well considering the high level of preparedness of our security agencies. I believe that port business can begin in earnest,” he said.

KPA is counting on two key routes to evacuate cargo from Lamu. One is the Lamu-Witu-Garsen road which can be linked to Malindi and Mazeras and ultimately end up in Mombasa or proceed to Nairobi.

Option two; transporters can move cargo to Nairobi via Lamu-Garsen-Garissa-Mwingi road.

 “Transporters will have alternative routes to move their cargo from the Port of Lamu,” KPA head of corporate affairs Bernard Osero told the Star.

ast week, executives of more than 20 global shipping lines toured the port. KPA is keen to position Lamu as a competitive harbor among its regional peers, mainly Djibouti which hugely serves Ethiopia.

“Representatives of the shipping lines were extremely impressed by government investment and level of preparedness,” Kasuku said.