Raid could affect the opening of Lamu port

Tuesday, January 7th, 2020 00:00 |
Lapsset. Photo/Courtesy

Opening of the Lamu Port under the ambitious Sh2.5 trillion Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) corridor project could be jeopardised by renewed al Shabaab attacks in the area.

Shippers say it will be difficult to import cargo through the new port whose commissioning of the first berth has been put on hold for months for unexplained reasons.

Commissioning of the berth has been postponed several times and the latest attack on the Manda airbase, near the port, has further complicated the security situation in the area.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, while on tour to Lamu in September, announced that the first berth was to  be commissioned in October. However, this was pushed to November and later suspended indefinitely.

The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), the developer, has already announced promotional tariffs to entice shippers, shipping lines and agents to use the facility.

Relative tranquillity

Former Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association (KIFWA) chairman William Ojoyo, yesterday said re-emergence of Al Shabaab after months of relative tranquillity, poses a threat to the new port.

“The government must assure importers and other port users that they will be safe, their cargo will be safe and ships docking at the facility will be safe.

Trade cannot thrive where there is no security,” he said. Ojoyo, however, said it is too early to say the attacks will affect the future of the port.

“Trade and security go hand-in-hand. We must address security issues in Lamu before we start marketing the port,” he said.

The first ship was expected to dock in November with President Kenyatta scheduled to witness the event only for it to be put off due to security concerns.

This, coupled with questions over its viability arising from a changing regional political landscape, especially within the Horn of Africa, have conspired to slow the port’s launch.

Ethiopia, which is viewed as the biggest client of the project under the Lapsset initiative, appears to have slowed down on the deal after making peace with neighbouring Eritrea. 

Construction of the Lamu Port-Moyale road has not started while tarmacking of the road between Lamu and Garsen is far from over.  Already, KPA has suspended activities at the port after the Sunday morning attacks

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