Port expansion conference winds up in Kenya as race for EA’s largest port gains momentum

The port of Mombasa. Two people have been charged over the theft of containers at the port /FILE

Mombasa, KENYA:The African ports expansion conference ended on Tuesday in Mombasa  County, Kenya.The Event  was convened by  New York based firm the International Quality and Productivity center IQPC.

According to Sumaya Mohamed from IQPC , they decided to organize the event in Kenya so as to provide a platform for foreign investors to network with players in the shipping and maritime sector in Africa.

“The Kenyan government is doing a lot to ease congestion at the Port of Mombasa and and many investors do not know how to get into the Kenyan and African  market so we decided to come up with this event.”Mohamed said.

Over 90 delegates attended the 2 day event from countries such as Switzerland, Belgium , South Africa and Ghana.

The Conference came just as the race for EA’s largest port takes shape with the construction the LAPSSET project still in progress.The Mombasa port is currently the largest port in East and Central Africa handling up-to 1 million containers per year.

According to Victor Odongo the Economic and Financial Analyst at the LAPSSET Corridor Development Authority, the construction of the  first 3 berths is expected to be complete by 2020 .

When complete the port is expected to accommodate post panama vessels with a 19000 TEU’s capacity.Currently the Port of Mombasa can only accommodate vessels with a 6000 TEU’s capacity.

Tanzania on the other hand is expected to begin the Construction of the Bangamoyo port in the Northern part of its coastline which when complete is expected to handle 20 million containers per year 25 times the handling capacity of the port of Dares Salaam.

Both ports are expected to compete for business from landlocked countries in East and Central Africa such as Uganda, Burundi, Zambia and Ethiopia.

However experts say that African ports should embrace diversity so as to ensure growth in the shipping and maritime sector.

Tessa Major is the port projects Manager at the Port of Antwerp which is the second largest port in Europe after Rotterdam Port and was one of the speakers at the conference.

“Its impossible to compete with someone if you are doing something similar.”Major said at the conference.

Congestion and delays at the Port of Mombasa has been a major challenge attributed to partly by the poor road network in the area.

According to the Managing director of the Kenya Railways Authority Atanas Maina, the standard gauge railway line which is slated to commence operations by June this year is expected to increase the movement of cargo from the port to the interior by 100%.