The Kenya Ports Authority will increase efficiency and capacity at the port of Mombasa in a bid to position it among the top 20 ports in the world by 2010.
Currently the port is ranked fourth on the continent after Richards Bay, Saldanha and Durban in Southern Africa.

Recently-confirmed KPA managing director James Mulewa said that in order to solve the problem of capacity limitation, the authority will build a second container terminal to increase the volume of cargo handled from 600,000 twenty-foot-equivalent containers to 1.8 million. The authority has also asked for Ksh3 billion ($37.5 million) from the government “to replace the aging cranes and other equipment bought five years ago, which are now due for replacement” said Mr Mulewa.

He said the movement of cargo had improved since the number of weighbridges were reduced to two, adding that when the Rift Valley Railways streamlines operations and improves cargo delivery, it will help the port handle an increased volume of cargo. The port will also approve more container freight stations for licensing by the Kenya Revenue Authority. Currently, there are only two such stations that handle containers — Consalbase and Mombasa Container Terminal.

The two set up in October last year have handled over 50,000 teu at a time when the port was faced by a serious threat of Vessel Delay Surcharges by shipping lines.

“More CFSs with the capacity to handle 3000 teus at a go will be licensed,” Mr Mulewa said.

However, the KPA boss said that since the development of the port of Mombasa had almost reached its full capacity, and in order for the country to remain relevant in the future shipping industry in the region, it was necessary to build a second major port in Lamu. The port of Mombasa was designed to handle only 20 million tonnes of cargo per annum. The Lamu port will be expected to serve landlocked Ethiopia and Southern Sudan, with a population of 80 million and 12 million respectively.

The reconstruction of Southern Sudan has generated huge imports needs and Lamu’s direct line of sight with Addis Ababa will allow for the shortest railway link between them. With the entry of Southern Sudan into the region’s economy, it is estimated that the demand for cargo imports will rise to over 32 million tonnes of per annum. The port of Mombasa and the existing road and rail network cannot possibly handle the increase in volume and weight of materials that will be required by Southern Sudan.

Currently Southern Sudan is exporting crude oil through a 1,600 kilometre-long pipeline connecting its oil fields to the Red Sea at Port Sudan. It is expected that these volumes will increase and the region has proposed an alternative oil pipeline through Kenya. The proposed route of this second corridor is Lamu-Garissa-Isiolo-Maralal-Lodwar and Lokichogio, branching at Isiolo to Nairobi to the south and to Ethiopia in the north. It will also serve South Sudan cargo through Juba.The port at Lamu is envisaged to be linked to the port in Mombasa by a new railway line and an access road, according to a lead consultant on the project, Dr Mutule Kilonzo. Lamu has naturally deep waters and a port there would accommodate bigger ships than those docking in Mombasa.

A free trade zone that will be developed along with the port is expected to foster the growth of trade and commercial activity to make Lamu a commercial hub. Dr Kilonzo said the project is expected to start by 2010.

Dubai World has been eyeing the Mombasa Port for sometime and we are unsure if the new project will be theirs for a take.