Mombasa port expansion gets $340m boost from Japan

The second phase of a project to increase the container handling capacity of the Kenyan port of Mombasa by 1 million teu is to go ahead in January following the securing of a $340m loan from the government of Japan.

The terminal will be built on 100 acres at Kilindini Harbour with the help of Japanese construction technology. It will have three berths with quay lengths of 230, 320 and 350m able to handle Panamax container ships of 20,000 dead weight tonnes (DWT) and Post Panamax vessels of 60,000 DWT.

The announcement was made by Catherine Mturi-Wairi, the managing director of the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), who said: "We already have the financing from the Japanese government. We are now in the tendering process but construction must commence by January 2018."

The need to begin work quickly reflects the race between Kenya and Tanzania to establish themselves as the trade gateway for the wider east and central African regions. Both countries are fitting their main ports with multibillion dollar standard gauge rail lines to the Great Lakes countries of Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda.

The Mombasa Port Development Project was begun in March 2012 with help from the Japan International Cooperation Agency. In February 2016 the project delivered three additional berths, and the following September it completed a container terminal with a capacity of 550,000 teu, which raised the port’s total capacity to 1.5 million teu, making it the largest container port between Durban in South Africa and Port Said in Egypt.

The third phase of the scheme is due to be completed in 2022, and will include the construction of one more berth, the procurement of equipment and dredging work to increase the capacity of Mombasa’s approach channel and turning basin.

Latest data from the KPA shows that Mombasa’s cargo traffic registered a 12% growth in the first six months of 2017, which it attributed to the construction of the second container terminal.

James Macharia, the transport secretary, told the Kenyan Standard that the government was looking for more funds to replace the Kipevu oil terminal in the port. "We’re planning a situation where the facility will have pipes running on the seabed to link with Kenya Pipeline Company storage tanks. The new oil terminal will incorporate an gas pipeline and have the capacity to handle four vessels at a time."

He also confirmed that the construction of an alternative transport route from Mombasa to Burundi through Bujumbura was on its last stretch. The route will cover 1,545km and reduce the distance from Mombasa to Bujumbura through the Northern Corridor by 358km. 

The Northern Corridor and the Mombasa expansion are part of Japan’s Yokohama Action Plan, announced at the 5th Tokyo International Conference on African Development in 2015. The aim is to provide infrastructure for the gateway port, and link it to its hinterland through the Northern Corridor.

Image: The port of Mombasa (Andrew Thomas/Flickr)

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