Design work for the Sh16 billion container terminal for the port of Mombasa begins next month. The project with a capacity of 1.2 million teus ( 20 foot equivalent units) will be completed in 10 months.

Engineering work could begin from July next year and the first phase of the terminal completed in 2013. The project, the biggest ever at Mombasa port in recent times, is being undertaken by Japanese Port Consultancy.

But while the construction of the new terminal would modernise the port, it has emerged that movement of containers would be hampered unless wide roads are constructed.

Briefing Prime Minister Raila Odinga and his delegation at the port recently, Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) officials said the new terminal was designed with a six lane road up to the Old Port Reitz Airport Road where it joins a single lane road. KPA chief operations manager Engineer Joseph Atonga warned of chaos if the roads is not widened. The six lanes cover about 1.6km from the new container terminal to be located west of the existing port.

“We have informed concerned ministries about this problem. We will require six lanes beyond the new container terminal to ensure smooth flow of traffic,” Atonga said. This is expected to be costly because it would involve compensation of property owners and demolition of houses and other structures.

The Sh16 billion, a soft loan from the Japanese Bank of International Corporation, did not include construction of the road extension beyond Port Reitz area.

“We are asking the Prime Minister to assist us address the problem,” said Atonga.

Raila said the Government was interested in modernising the port and making it more efficient. He said the Government would fast-track establishment of a free port at Dongo Kundu area near the port. The project will include a fixed by-pass linking Moi International Airport and the Diani tourist resort in the South Coast. Meanwhile, priority will be given to the extension of a two kilometre stretch from the Old Port Reitz airport road to Magongo area.

This is expected to cost between Sh400 million and Sh500 million.