New East African ports aim to boost maritime business

Container ship Olga MaerskInvestors hope new ports will enhance maritime business within East Africa. (Image source: Olga Maersk)Investors in the East African region have called for the speedy completion of new ports to enhance maritime business

From the Indian Ocean to Lake Victoria, new ports are currently being developed at a time when business within the East African community is booming, creating increasing pressure on the existing ports of Mombasa and Dar es Salaam.

Currently, Mombasa is the largest port in the region averaging 14mn tonnes of cargo a year. More than 17 shipping lines call on the port providing connectivity to more than 80 ports globally.

The port serves the Kenyan market, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, eastern DR Congo, northern Tanzania, South Sudan and Ethiopia.

On its part Dar es Salaam handles 4.1mn tonnes of dry cargo and six million tonnes of bulk liquid cargo and serves the landlocked countries of Malawi, Zambia, DR Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.

Increased business in the East African Community has pushed these two ports to the limit, leading investors to call for new ports to be built along Africa's east coast.

Ali Mufuruku, executive chairman of Tanzanian firm InfoTech Investment Group, said, “The closer a port is the cheaper it becomes to do import and export business. We need more ports on the East African coast as the existing ones are not enough.”

Mufuruku added that compared to the stretch from Durban to Cape Town, where there are 12 ports to facilitate cargo business, the East African coast is doing badly.

In recent years however, building has been underway for new ports, including the US$23bn Lamu Port in Kenya, the Mwambani in Tanga and Malindi in Zanzibar, of which are all situated along the Indian Ocean.

New ports in Musoma in Tanzania situated on Lake Victoria, an important route for business in the Great Lakes region, and the New Kampala Port at Bukasa have also been planned for construction.

Expected to open up business in northern Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan, Lamu Port will be the biggest of the region's new ports.

Upon completion of the port, Lamu Port will have 32 berths along a six sq km coastline.

According to officials, the first three berths are expected to be built by 2016 and the rest by 2030.

Mugo Kebati, director general of Kenya's Vision 2030 delivery secretariat, remarked, “The three berths are designed to handle 30,000 Dead Weight Tonnage (DWT) and 100,000 DWT for general bulk and container cargo respectively. The development is crucial for the importation of building material and other project components.”

Lamu’s Manda Bay is well sheltered and has deep water of around 18 metres along the main channel and 50-60 metres in the bay, able to accommodate Panama-size vessels.

The port will be expected to become a trans-shipment hub to handle crude oil and refine oil from South Sudan. It will also be a shipment point for exports and imports from Ethiopia.

Tanzania is also not sleeping on her laurels with the recent announcement of a US$2.7bn joint venture to develop a new railway line and ports from Tanga at the Indian Ocean to Musoma on Lake Victoria.

Of this funding, US$996mn will go towards the development of Mwambani port near Tanga, while US$72.6mn will be for the development of Musoma dock.

Located on the southern end of Lake Victoria, Musoma is an important business hub that connects port Jinja and port Bell in Uganda and Kisumu in Kenya.

Reportedly costing US$1.9bn, it is expected that the Tanga-Musoma rail line, will allow freight offloaded from ships on the Indian Ocean to reach Lake Victoria for onward movement to Uganda via steamers.

Emmanuel Mallya, the chairman of Tanzania Shipping Agents Association (TASAA), noted, “The main advantage of Mwambani port, which needs to be developed, is that the cost of transport will come down dramatically as shipping lines will be able to deploy the largest possible vessels to minimise the cost per unit.”

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