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October 22, 2017

Dry port will boost Mombasa's

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The dry port to be set up in Naivasha is part of the northern corridor whose master plan aims to establish inland freight hubs to end congestion at the Port of Mombasa.

The Mombasa port's total annual freight handling is expected to exceed 50 million tonnes by 2030, doubling from 24 million tonnes in 2015.

The dry port is expected to reduce the overall cost of handling goods at the seaport, which faces cutthroat competition from the Port of Dar es Salaam.

The purpose of dry ports the world over is not to drive existing mother seaports and inland depots out of business, but to complement them.

Dry ports allow the provision of additional logistic services for the mother ports such as cargo consolidation, provision of additional storage space for both cargo and empty containers, as well as container cleaning, fumigation and light repairs. All these cannot be undertaken in congested seaports and inland container depots.

The establishment of dry ports, therefore, relieves the stiff competition for space between cargo storage and clearing as well as customs activities at the seaports and makes them more efficient, neat and competitive.

The proposed dry ports in Voi and Naivasha are therefore expected to complement the traditional cargo freight services at the Port of Mombasa and the inland container depots in Embakasi, Eldoret and Kisumu. The need for such ports is now urgent, following the commencement of SGR operations.

In Tanzania, for example, the government aims at operating the internal container terminal at Isaka near Tabora as a dry port, which is intended to move the Port of Dar es Salaam closer to the landlocked countries of Burundi, Rwanda, DRC and Uganda.

The government, in its effort to decongest the Port of Dar es Salaam, also intends to establish other dry ports in Ruvu and Kisarawe within the coast region.

In Ethiopia, the government in 2007 established a dry port at Modjo, 76km east of Addis Ababa, which handles 80 per cent of the import-export cargo along the Ethiopia-Djibouti trade corridor.

The commissioning of the Modgo dry port reduced the time it previously took to move cargo from Djibouti to Ethiopia from 30 days to 10.

In 2010, Ethiopia opened a second dry port at Semera, 558km east of Addis Ababa, which is specifically designed to handle vehicle importations. The country is already undertaking feasibility studies for six additional dry ports in Woyito, Hawassa, Dire Dawa, Jimma, Mekele and Moyale.

There are several reasons why Naivasha is ideal for setting up a dry port. First, the area was earmarked for the establishment of a special economic zone together with Mombasa, Lamu and Kisumu as part of Vision 2030.

The special economic zones are expected to spur growth. Most dry ports in developing economies have been established close to production bases, especially the special economic zones.

Second, the availability of vast quantities of geothermal resources in Nakuru county at Olkaria, Eburru and Menengai make Naivasha ideal for the establishment of an industrial park. Industrial manufacturers in the Naivasha special economic zone could, for instance, get cheaper electricity because of the lower transmission costs.

The location of industries in close proximity to the geothermal power stations also reduces the inevitable energy losses associated with long-distance evacuation. The proposed industrial park in Naivasha should therefore be allowed to establish and grow just without negative politics like others in the country such as the Nairobi industrial and technology park, Infinity industrial park, Tatu industrial park and Athi River industrial park.

Finally, Nakuru county is a wealthy and dynamic county with a hard-working population and rapidly growing satellite urban centres such as Nakuru, Molo, Gilgil and Subukia that can sustain the operations of a dry port. The hinterland in the neigbouring counties of Narok and Nyandarua will also sustain the dry port, which will serve as a gateway to Laikipia, Samburu, and Baringo counties.

Naivasha has excellent topography and weather for a dry port as well as a good transport network, especially with the SGR connection now under construction.

Some conservationists have raised their usual concerns about the establishment of an industrial park near Lake Naivasha. There is, however, no significant scientific evidence to support their concerns, most of which are driven by foreign interests.

The concerns are similar to the unfounded arguments raised against the construction of the SGR through the Tsavo. These have been flatly disproved by the very successful operations by Kenya Railways, which has won public satisfaction.

The dry port will not strangle Mombasa's economy as insinuated by that county's governor. It will actually reduce the pressure on the coastal marine environment. It will also enhance the spirit of inter-county partnerships as prescribed in the Constitution rather than inter-county conflict.

It is short-sighted and unfair for politicians to strangle national and regional growth for the sake of selfish protectionism in a single county, including the protection of personal business interests. Some of the loudest voices against the Naivasha port operate personal container freight stations in Mombasa.

The establishment of a dry port in Naivasha should not be politicized. Those of us from Nakuru county are upset by the discrimination which the county is getting in the matter from certain circles especially in the opposition. Nakuru county is part of Kenya and has a right to share the national cake just like other counties in Kenya.

It will ultimately also be a great idea if the government can allow the liberalization and privatization of dry ports to allow able private investors to establish them as in other countries. Currently, India for example operates a total of 52 inland container terminals with 16 under the management of private operators. This might reduce the level of negative politics on the establishment of such ports in the future.

 

Dr Francis Mwaura, senior lecturer, University of Nairobi

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