Mombasa's Expansion to Mega Port begins in December

The container terminal at the Mombasa Port 

THE EXPANSION of the Mombasa port into a mega port will begin in December 2012, we have reliably learnt. The expansion brings to a close the Port’s US$ 320 million development project that began last year. 

 The project is funded by the Kenya government jointly with the Japanese International Co-operation Agency,JICA. 

The first phase of the development project included the dredging of the port to a depth of 15 Metres. It also widened the Likoni Channel from 250 Meters to more than 300 meters, while the turning basin was widened to 600 meters. 

This phase cost US$62 million and was completed in 18 months. Its completion enabled the Port to receive the largest sea freighters in the market.

The second phase which involves construction of three berths with a straight-line quay of 900 meters, reclamation of 100 hectares of land, second container terminal with a capacity of one million TEUs, reclamation of 100 acres of land, construction of a 5KM link road to Mombasa southern by-pass and a Railway line.  At the end of the two-years US$200 million project, the Mombasa Port will have a capacity of 1.25 Million TEUs. 

The Mombasa port, which is the hub of shipping business in east and central Africa, has come under intense pressure to expand in the recent past due to robust economic growth in the region and also changes in vessel sizes. 

Robust economic growth both in Kenya and among her landlocked neighbours such as Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan generated increased demand for imports and exports through the port.

This increase in demand has stretched facilities at the port to the snapping point. The container terminal, build in 1980 to handle just 250,000 TEUs a year found itself  handling some 695,000 TEUs in 2010.  That was three times beyond its capacity. This resulted in unwarranted delays in cargo discharge and the associated costs. Being the gateway to east Africa, congestion at the port increased the cost of doing business in the region.

The second   source of pressure for the port was advance in construction of freighters. In order to minimize average costs, shipping Lines were investing in large capacity vessels.  In 1996, says an analysis by the Kenya Ports Authority which is in charge of all ports in Kenya, the largest vessel had a capacity of 4000 TEUs. This grew progressively to 11,000 TEUs in 2011 and is projected to rise to 20,000 TEUs by 2020.
A prototype of Mombasa southern by pass

This growth in large vessels put pressure on major ports in Africa to invest in capacity expansion. The Mombasa Port was no exception. The expansion project that will be completed by the end of 2014 will ensure that Mombasa retains its positions as a mega port in Africa. 

At the moment all- post panamax vessels can easily be accommodated at the port. These are vessels that are up to 350 metres long and have a larger loading capacity.

Apart from building facilities at the port, JICA is also funding  complementary logistical projects around the port. Although they are not part of the port expansion project, they will ensure its efficient operation.

These include the proposed  US$300 million Mombasa southern by pass on the South Coast linking the Nairobi high way at Miritini, 19 KM away.  The Port itself will be linked to the by-pass by the 5-KM Kipevu link road thus transferring the freight trucks to the by-pass and hence decongest the City of Mombasa. Construction of the by-pass is expected to start early next year.

In addition, Kenya is upgrading the 1,300KM lunatic express, the Kenya –Uganda railway to standard gauge with funding from China. The five-year upgrade project will be launched towards the end of this year.

The upgrade will raise train speeds to 120KM per hour for Cargo and 80 Km per hour for passenger trains. The idea is for the railway line to reclaim its past glory when it used to be a transport mode of choice for passengers and freight in the region. Lack of rail transport is a major cause of congestion at the Port of Mombasa.  Please go to.


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