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Lamu Port’s first berth to be opened next month

Thursday, 05 September 2019 | 00:00

The first berth of the Lamu Port is now 98 per cent complete and is set to be unveiled next month.

The construction has been ongoing for three years. Stakeholders are optimistic that it will have a socio-economic transformation of the region through trade. It will open up the corridor counties to the rest of the country and neighbouring states.

At least 33 shipping companies have shown interest and their representatives have either toured the site or will do so before the opening date.

Lamu Port will be actively involved in the transhipment business as its depth can accommodate big ships from which cargo can be loaded to smaller ships bound for Mombasa, according to Abdullahi Samatar, Kenya Ports Authority general manager in charge of Infrastructure development.

Samatar dismisses fears that Lamu will eclipse the Kilindini. Instead, it will complement the Mombasa Port and ease container congestion.

“Show me a country that has developed with only one port,” he said, adding that for Kenya to realise its potential as a logistics hub, it needs more than one port.

The Sh2 trillion LAPSSET project has attracted diplomats, foreign and local investors. The port will transform the fortunes of the country’s Northern Corridor.

Some of the counties that will immediately benefit are the previously marginalised Lamu, Isiolo, Garissa, Marsabit and Turkana.

LAPSSET director-general Silvester Kasuku told KNA last Friday that new employment and trade opportunities will be created, raising the status of Kenya asmiddle-income country.

“The ongoing and planned north-bound road projects connecting the Northern Corridor to the LAPSSET corridor will provide effective communication linkages as more counties, towns and cities will be connected,” he said.

Among the latest visitors to the site is the American ambassador to Kenya Kyle McCarter. His Norwegian counterpart is expected this week,” LAPSSET regional manager Salim Bunu said.

KPA Lamu superintendent AbdiShukri Osman Abdikadir said hundreds of people will be employed to manage the new port.

KPA insiders say 1,500 direct jobs will be created when the three berths are completed. Many more will be employed by the Container Freight Service companies.

The Lamu county government has been offering scholarship and bursary opportunities for youths interested in TVET and maritime courses both in Lamu and Mombasa counties in a bid to ensure local youths are not disenfranchised once the project is completed.

“We are training as many youths interested in welding, plumbing, driving, mechanical and electrical engineering courses whether in TVETs or at Bandari college as we realize the project presents an opportunity for the locals to get jobs first,” Lamu Deputy Governor and Education county executive Abdul Hakim Aboud Bwana reveals.

“It is up to the local youth to realize that the Lamu Port presents a new day, a new way of doing things and in this case they are better positioned to get jobs at the facility should they possess the right skills,” Lamu governor Fahim Twaha added.

The governor further notes that the prospects of the Lokichar-Lamu Sh100 billion oil pipeline further raises the stakes for the county to be prepared in terms of skills and infrastructure, in readiness to meet the challenge posed by the LAPSSET project which encompasses road, rail and pipeline as the key infrastructural component.

However, lingering questions have emerged over whether the county is ready for the infrastructure windfall that is set to dawn on Lamu.

“Lack of a viable road network from the Lamu-Witu-Garsen highway poses a challenge to the extent that unless the contractor works fast enough to ensure the road is ready by next year, the Lamu port is likely to be underutilized as a logistics alternative regionally,” Lamu Chamber of Commerce Secretary General Feisal Mirji notes.

There is also the issue of proper spatial planning for Lamu’s resort and port city which is in question, following the poor land management issues affecting land ownership in the region.

Since the launch of the ambitious Lamu Spatial Plan in 2017 under the auspices of former governor Issa Timamy, there has been little to no sound bite over whether the Lamu County or the LAPSSET project intends to adhere to the spatial plan.

Experts such as WWF Kenya Spatial planning officer Nathan Mutunga who also co-authored the Lamu Spatial Plan suggests that unless the plan is adhered to, there is likely to be an emergence of slum dwellings, poor drainage systems and degradation of Lamu’s diverse conservation environs.

“With the LAPSSET project taking shape, the driver of the project need to ensure that the resort and port cities are well planned with estates and economic zones clearly demarcated away from the Boni forest, or we may have a situation like the one in Nairobi where lack of proper spatial planning and administration has led to the emergence of slums and poor land management,” he says.

He contends that the Implementation of the Lamu spatial plan will go a long way not only in guiding development and socio-economic growth, but also in securing critical biodiversity areas.

Lamu residents have also questioned the county’s capacity to adequately offer a sufficient water supply for the port, resort city and economic special zones as well as Lamu residents, in consideration that presently, Lamu Water and Sanitation Company have had water supply to half of the population cut off due to arrears.

“We are up to the task of providing LAPSSET with enough water and currently, they are out biggest customer taking more than Sh1.8 million worth of water monthly,” LAWASCO Managing Director Paul Wainaina says.

However, evidence on the ground shows that unless the county government get assistance from the national government to improve the water supply and develop a non-existent drainage system in Lamu County, the LAPSSET project is likely to run into infrastructural problems.

LAPSSET Director General has previously stated that the national government will take the initiative to facilitate a water project in Lamu to aid in ensuring the mega project is well maintained.

“As part of the Lapsset Corridor programme, the central government of Kenya is also working with the Lamu County authorities to establish a desalination plant with a production capacity of 3,000 cubic meters of water a day,” Kasuku revealed, adding that its construction will cost US$ 3.4m from the Lapsset Corridor programme budget.
Source: The Star

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