Hope of maritime revival as firm constructs ship assembly yard

A view of Kisumu port in a picture taken on January 17,2019. The port has become inactive because of the water hyacinth cover that has kept ferries away from docking at the port. [Photo: Denish Ochieng/ Standard]

Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o will today preside over a groundbreaking ceremony for a ship assembling yard. 

Uganda-based Chinese maritime company, Mango Tree Group, has already cleared the site for the yard located between Tilapia Beach hotel and Hindu crematorium.

The company has been contracted to remove water hyacinth from the lake as well as dredge the port and a shipping channel. It will use the yard to assemble four hyacinth harvesters whose parts are expected to arrive in the country by April this year.

"We expect to ship in machines and crane parts in about 40 containers and assemble the hyacinth harvesters here," said Jan Shu Chun, Mango Tree group managing director, when he visited Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB) offices in Kisumu last week.

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Spurring tourism

The lake front development project will also see a marina constructed to berth leisure cruise ships and water sports vessels to spur tourism in the Western Kenya circuit.

According to the governor's office, the county has been holding talks with Kenya Railways, which owns large tracts of the lake front land, to cede some of it for development of tourism and leisure products.

The Standard established that President Uhuru Kenyatta had directed that four water hyacinth harvesters be shipped in to lower the period needed to clean the lake of the water weed from the estimated 15 months.

The Chinese firm had last month announced plans to bring in three machines to fight the invasive weed.

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But according to Kisumu Deputy Governor Mathews Owili, Uhuru ordered an extra machine brought in after a private visit at the port alongside Africa Union’s envoy on Infrastructure Development, Raila Odinga.

Kenya’s renewed commitment to reviving the port follows the June 2018 reopening of Tanzania's Mwanza port, which has been inactive for nearly 10 years, and efforts by Uganda to overhaul Jinja and Port Bell.

The Chinese firm putting up the ship assembling yard is credited with the war against hyacinth on the Ugandan side, and the opening up of the country’s ports for renewed maritime services.

In 2016, Uganda borrowed $48 million (Sh4.8 billion) from two German banks to build a port at Bukasa and is currently building four ships – an 850 passenger wagon ferry and a 4.8 million litre petroleum hauling burger.

The cleanup initiative includes dredging to desilt the shallow Kisumu port and a 63-kilometre shipping channel from the port to Rusinga Channel, where the Winam Gulf joins the main lake.

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On January 18, Raila launched a 4,000-tonne dredger, which is expected to scour the shallow gulf and open it up for bigger maritime trade.

This is expected to mark the redemption of the once vibrant trade between Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. It is among ongoing programmes to re-position the port as a vital corridor for improved trade among the five countries forming the East African Community,

The lake will be dredged to accommodate large cargo ships that once plied the triangular trade route covering Kisumu, Jinja in Uganda and Mwanza in Tanzania.

Governor Anyang’ Nyong’oMango Tree GroupTilapia Beach hotelHindu crematoriumShip assembly yardMaritime