President Uhuru Kenyatta has announced that the Lamu port construction will start next month. He made this announcement during Kenya’s first National Maritime Conference at Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC) on February 23rd 2015.  The commencement of the Lamu project will include the construction of the first 3 berths of Lamu Port. The new port is part of the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) Corridor project which is expected to link five countries in the East African Region.


The Lamu Port will be a key step towards national equity and development; it is expected to inject a growth value of around 2% to 3% of GDP into the economy.

“Lapsset is the single largest project of its nature in the East African region and once completed it will significantly boost the economic growth of not only Kenya but also the region in general,” said President Kenyatta during the KICC Conference.

LAPPSET, which is one of Kenya Vision 2030 flagship projects, will comprise of, three deep-sea shipping berths, a railway line, oil refinery at Lamu, oil pipeline and a free port at Lamu (Manda Bay). Lamu is expected to be a Resort City with a seaport, an international airport and an oil refinery. In addion, Isiolo, Lokchoggio and Lake Turkana will also have resort cities with their own international airports. The LAPPSET aims to be a transport corridor from the Lamu Port through Garissa, Isiolo, Mararal, Lodwar, and Lokichoggio and then branch at Isiolo into Ethiopia and Southern Sudan. The two countries (Ethiopia and Southern Sudan) will be connected to Lamu through a road, a standard gauge railway line, a fiber optic cable and an oil pipeline. Eventually Kenya intends on building 32 berths in Lamu, which will make Lamu’s 32-berth port five times larger than the Indian Ocean port in Mombasa and thus facilitate transportation for both Kenya and its neighbors.

The overall price of the project has been put at KES 2 trillion ($25.5 billion), and the cost will shared among the three countries according to freight volume share. As a result, Kenya will contribute 21%, Ethiopia 33% and Sudan 46% and the rest will be from private investors. 
There has not been a lot of construction activity ever  since 2011 when a consortium led by China Communications Construction Co Ltd won a KES 41 billion($449 million) contract to build the first three berths of the port. As of now, constructions of various facilities around Lamu Port are ongoing. The Lamu Port Building and Port Police and security facilities are almost complete, while the Government is working on finalizing airport facilities in Lamu and Isiolo Airports. 

The LAPSSET was first proposed in the 1970s, but was officially launched in 2012 by Presidents Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and General Silva Kiir of Southern Sudan. Unfortunately, the Lamu Port has experienced multiple delays including, the 2014 Lamu violence and demand for greater compensation by landowners. Thus far, around KES 860 million has been given to Project Affected People (PAP), landowners whose land was acquired to give way for the Lamu Port. Compensation for those whose land is within the proposed Lamu port project started in 2013, but has since stalled. However, the government of Kenya assures landowners that those who have not been paid will receive their money after delays in the National Land Commission are sorted. The funds are held by the National Land Commission who received KES 1.3 billion from the Ministry of Transport and infrastructure to facilitate the process. The ground breaking for the first 3 berths of Lamu Port will commence once all compensation is taken care of.

Kenya’s first National Maritime Conference was held in order to discuss and develop national action plan and find a way for Kenyans to benefit from the country’s maritime resources. The maritime sector is vital for the growth of Kenya’s economy as it accounts for 92 per cent of Kenya’s global trade. As a result, the Lamu Port is expected to provide an opportunity for the exploitation of the country’s vast and largely untapped maritime resources which will no doubt pave the way towards Kenya’s vision of becoming a middle-income country by 2030.

“Kenya’s maritime domain extends over 230,000 square kilometers — the equivalent of about 31 of our 47 counties. This vast resource has hitherto lain untapped by Kenyans. Special attention must be paid to education and training, so that our skills match the infrastructure we are building,” explained Mr. Kenyatta during the conference.

The importance of quality maritime training was emphasized throughout the conference by President Uhuru Kenyatta. He invited the private sector to improve the caliber of maritime training and education to boost the role the maritime sector plays in Kenya. Although, Mr. Kenyatta did not specify, a public university will start offering relevant courses to provide specialized training for the maritime industry.

The Lamu Port will not only catapult Kenya’s economy but it is expected to provide vast investment opportunities and job opportunities. The African Union added the LAPPSET project among the 16 flagship continental infrastructure projects that have priority for joint funds enlistment.
The LAPPSET project is actually the first phase towards a proposed land bridge to extend across the middle of Africa from Lamu in Kenya (Indian Ocean) to Douala in Cameroon (Atlantic Ocean).

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