State bets on shipping, logistics sector to drive regional growth

Shipping containers are stacked together at the Port of Baltimore. [AP Photo]

Kenya's shipping, transport and logistics sectors have been cited as key catalysts that will help spur the economic fortunes of the East African Community (EAC).

This is as the country positions itself to reap big from the entry of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) into the regional economic bloc.

The accelerated investment in the intermodal transport systems - majorly road, rail and port infrastructure affirms this strategy as Kenya eyes increased trade and commerce across the region.

Speaking at the Port of Mombasa, EAC Principal Secretary Kevit Desai, who met stakeholders from the shipping, manufacturing, transport, and logistics sectors for an engagement session, said efficiency and competitiveness of port facilities is crucial since they are the engine of the logistics and supply chain sector.

The principal secretary anticipated increased demand for the services in the region as the population of the EAC crosses the 300 million mark following the entry of DRC into the trading bloc.

Mr Desai noted that with the recent ratification of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (ACfTA) by 44 countries, the ports of Mombasa and Lamu are expected to play an even bigger role in connecting EAC to the rest of the continent.

"We not only target to serve DRC who recently joined the EAC, but also wish to connect the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean through trade," he said.

Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) has invested billions of shillings in the construction and upgrade of infrastructure projects spanning various port facilities.

This, Desai pointed out, has been bolstered by the rise in demand for shipping services across east and central Africa, and the need to enhance service delivery and improve efficiency in port operations as well as lower the cost of doing business.

Among the mega projects under development that KPA prioritised include the recently commissioned phase two of the second container terminal at the port of Mombasa.

With the completion of phase two, the Port of Mombasa has added a further 450,000 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) annual capacity, bringing the total capacity at the region's biggest port to 2.1 million TEUs annually.

Petroleum products

This cements its position among the top five ports in Africa and the regional hub for maritime and shipping.

KPA has also completed the construction of the new Sh40 billion Kipevu Oil Terminal II which will enhance the port's capacity to handle petroleum products for both the local and regional markets.

The project consists of one offshore island terminal with four berths that are 770 metres long and one work boat wharf in the Westmont area for landing facilities.

KPA is also working to streamline automation in its operations and cargo clearance processes to increase the competitiveness of the ports.

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