Mombasa investors and residents are keenly watching latest developments in Lamu town. Some are excited, but others are apprehensive
the sea, Mombasa Port could welcome a rival in a few years from now.
However, besides the credentials, by today’s standards the Port of
Mombasa is small and rustic.
It is inaccessible to modern mega-ships and many leading shipping lines
give it a wide berth. But if the blueprint for Lamu Port is nofollowed,
this will be a thing of the past. So just how different will the
situation in Lamu be, and how will it affect Mombasa Port?
One of the glaring differences is that Manda Bay, where Lamu Port will
be constructed, is a natural harbour, while Kilindini in Mombasa is not.
Kilindini Harbour is on waters with a depth of between 10 and 12 metres,
but Manda Bay is 18 metres deep. Even with the planned dredging of
Kilindini, Mombasa Port cannot surpass 15 metres in depth. Manda Bay is
also wider, allowing the construction of 22 berths.
Consequently, Mombasa Port normally accommodates vessels carrying an
average of only 3,000 containers. In today’s standards this is too
small. They are also not economical to maintain and major global
shipping lines no longer operate this class of ships. Mombasa and other
ports in Eastern Africa like the Port of Dar es Salaam are considered
expensive cargo destinations.
Most major shipping lines prefer using post-Panamax vessels. This term
denotes vessels surpassing the size allowed to pass through Panama
Dr Mutule Kilonzo says Lamu Port will feature the first harbour on the
eastern seaboard of Africa with a capacity to dock post-Panamax vessels
with a capacity to accommodate over 8,000 40-feet containers, thus
bringing down the cost of shipping substantially.
When The Standard visited Mombasa Port, shippers, clearing agents and
cargo handlers expressed apprehension that the construction of a port in
Lamu with superior capacity would change the way trade is done in
Mombasa. "Lamu will not even compete with Mombasa because they will be
operating at very different levels. Lamu will not take away business
from Mombasa because the lines with strategic interests in Mombasa will
be different from those interested in Lamu," says Kilonzi.
Lamu will be designed to receive and discharge super large cargoes and
act as a supplying centre to the ports of Mombasa, Zanzibar, Dar es
Salaam and Maputo.
Source: The Standard
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