The Kenya Engineer team sat down with Eng. Rashid Salim, Ag. Managing Director, Kenya Ports Authority. The full interview will be published in the Third Volume of the Engineers Year Book.

Kindly introduce yourself to our readers and give us your professional background.

My name is Engineer Rashid Salim the current Acting Managing Director of Kenya Ports Authority.  My professional background is Marine Engineering with 29 years’ experience in the field.  I am a member of The Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (MIMarEST). I am also registered as an Incorporated Marine Engineer (IMarEng) as well as Incorporated Engineer (IEng) with the Engineering Council, London, United Kingdom.

What are your specific roles at KPA?  

As the Acting Managing Director of KPA I direct and control the running of all KPA facilities by overseeing business operations. Additionally, with consultation with my management team, I am responsible for giving strategic guidance and direction to the board to ensure that the organization achieves its mission and vision as well as its goals.

In a nutshell, what is the scope of the Lamu Port project?

The Lamu Port upon completion will have 23 multipurpose berths with the length overall of 400 metres wide. Currently the construction of the first three berths is complete with the first yard. The reclamation process for the other two yards is ongoing and will be complete by October 2021.

The project also includes the construction of yards, dredging works to deepen the channel, roads construction and utilities to support operations.

Is the first completed berth already operational? If yes what has been (or would be) the immediate impact of operationalizing this berth?       

The first berth although ready is not operational just yet, we want to ensure all the requisite requirements for smooth operation are in place before commencing.  The operationalization of the Port of Lamu is expected to open up the northern part of the country to trade and commerce and easy evacuation of cargo.

Upon full completion what is the projected impact of this project on regional trading?

The Port of Lamu will revolutionize trade and open up the region further to efficiency and ease of doing business. With the Port of Lamu, a new transport corridor connecting Ethiopia, South Sudan and the northern Kenya will emerge, thereby giving importers options and accelerating trade.

How will years of managing the port in Mombasa inform the management of the new port in Lamu?

KPA will employ the same strategies used in managing the Port of Mombasa, that has seen the largest port in East and Central African region grow in leaps and bounds in the over 100 years it has been operational. Our focus is on trade and we will implement our mandate guided by our mission and vision.

What challenges do you anticipate in management of the Lamu Port?

One of the major challenges that we anticipate is poor hinterland connectivity which may greatly hamper the seamlessness of cargo transportation. However, the government through relevant agencies is already working to construct and upgrade roads in Northern Kenya that will be used for cargo offtake. Some of the major roads are already complete.

Additionally, security situation and negative perception is another challenge we have to address. we have to work extra hard to assure stakeholders namely shippers, freight forwarders and shipping lines of the safety of their personnel and cargo for them to fully utilize Lamu Port. I am also glad the national government is working towards securing this area, as it is fundamental for business operations.

Finally, as an organization, we have to work hard to market the Port and draw in shipping lines to utilize the facility. We have been engaging the shipping lines to listen to their suggestions and requirements so that we can implement before we begin operations. So far, the response has been positive.

Which Kenyan Firms are involved in the Lamu project and to what extend?

There are 46 Kenyan firms involved in the project. About six of them have done construction of staff housing, boundary wall, sub-station earthing, interlocking concrete blocks (block paving) and Corporate Social Investment initiative of constructing classrooms for a local school. The rest are suppliers of various construction materials.

Have Kenyan Engineers and Engineering firms developed sufficient capacity to handle projects of this magnitude?

The nature of this kind of project is such that it takes a very long time from one to the next. It does not go on continuously like, for example, road construction. Hence it is very difficult for purely Kenyan firms on their own to carry them out. But by partnering with international firms that carry out such work almost routinely, Kenyan firms participate in these projects.

What can the Government and the engineering fraternity do to help build this capacity?

One way is to include in all consultancy contracts, a provision that Kenyan engineers must be involved right from the design stage up to construction supervision.

 What opportunities does this project present to Kenyan Engineers both during its implementation and upon completion? 

There are total of 32 Kenyan engineers of various disciplines on the project at the moment. 20 working for the contractor and 12 for the consultant. It is a very good opportunity to learn what is normally not commonly available in the Kenya construction industry.

How will the completion of Lamu Port improve shipping and trade in this region?

As I had earlier mentioned The Port of Lamu will create a new transport corridor that will serve the markets of Ethiopia, South Sudan and the Northern parts of Kenya.  With its deep natural harbour and wide berths, the Port of Lamu will attract post- panamax vessels with the capacity to carry up to 20,000 boxes. The Port of Mombasa will be positively impacted as well, with the easing of congestion at the facility due to the redistribution of cargo.

Which other infrastructural expansion programs is KPA undertaking to enhance port capacity and boost efficiency?

KPA has been undertaking several initiatives to improve efficiency and boost productivity at the Port of Mombasa. Key among these projects is the construction of container terminal 2 phase 1 and 2. The first phase is complete and already in use while the construction of second phase which will comprise two berths is already underway. Additionally, we continue implementing several projects including ICT related ones to simplify our cargo clearing processes like online documentation, upgrading our security system to ensure safety of cargo and personnel, acquiring of new equipment and machinery including cranes to boost productivity

As an organization, we strive to be an institution of excellence that puts the customer satisfaction at the peak of our priorities. We continue implementing all these initiatives in our other facilities as well namely; Kisumu port and the Inland Container Depots in Nairobi and Naivasha to ensure efficiency and quality service delivery.

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