SECTIONS

What next for Naivasha depot as services shift?

Kenya Railways and Kenya Ports Authority officials offload cargo from the SGR train to the Meter Gauge Railway cargo train at the Inland Container Depot (ICD) in Mai Mahiu Naivasha for onwards transportation to Malaba on January 10, 2022. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

The move to revert clearing and forwarding services to the Port of Mombasa from Naivasha has left multi-billion shilling investments on the brink of closing.

At stake is the industrial park in Mai Mahiu where tens of investors have shown interest.

Tens of traders had also pegged their interest in the Inland Container Depot (ICD)  and invested on the land located off the Mai Mahiu-Narok road with eyes on various services in the dry port.

The inland port is on over 1,000 acres of land and was expected to load two million tonnes of cargo every year. Most of the cargo was for Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The port was intended to reduce congestion at the Nairobi ICD and Mombasa ports.

On Tuesday, during the swearing-in of President William Ruto, he directed the services to be relocated to Mombasa to the anger of Naivasha residents and the joy of their counterparts in the Coastal town.

During campaigns, Ruto promised to, within 100 days,relocate the services to Mombasa, noting that the ICD in Mai Mahiu was located on private land.

Naivasha MP Jane Kihara defended the move noting that the issue of port services and the industrial park were different and should be handled separately.

She lashed out at the former regime, noting that local leaders were not involved in the operations of the dry port which had continued to draw more heat than light.

“The president was clear that there will be an industrial park in Mai Mahiu which will create more jobs and the move to relocate the clearing and forwarding services to Mombasa is timely,” she said.

Judyleah Waihenya, the outgoing chief officer for land in Nakuru, said the directive by the president would have a major impact on the planned industrial park in the area.

She said the county had received 50 acres of land from the national government next to the ICD, with the masterplan for the multi-billion special economic zone (SEZ) ready.

“Our plan was targeting operations around the ICD which included construction of hotels, banks, fueling stations among others but the concept will now have to change,” she said.

Waihenya said that over 80 investors had shown interest in the economic zone, adding that the concept would have to change as the new government was keen on the park and not the ICD.

The CEO of Naivasha Professional Association Absolom Mukhuusi said the move had spelt doom for tens of investors keen on the industrial park.

He said the association and traders were seeking a meeting with Nakuru Governor Susan Kihika in the coming week to raise their concerns.

“We shall hand over a petition to the governor to pass it to the president as we feel the move to relocate clearing and forwarding services to Mombasa will kill business in Mai Mahiu,” he said.

Mukhuusi added that billions of taxpayers' cash had been invested in the region, wondering what would happen to the current facilities.

“The government used billions to construct the ICD and upgrade the meter-gauge railway line to Malaba for smooth transportation of goods but this is now a waste,” he said.

This was echoed by Youth leader Charles Mburu who noted that billions of shillings invested in real estate around Mai Mahiu would go to waste.