Lamu Port starts operations with the arrival of two vessels - Mv Cap Carmel and Mv Seago Bremerhavel.
Both ships will arrive from Mombasa and Dar-es-Salaam ports and dock at the new harbour today (Thursday).
President Uhuru Kenyatta will lead government officials and players in the maritime industry in commissioning the first berth as minimal operations start.
This signals the start of commercial activity at the Lamu Port, known for its deep and long berths that can accommodate big ships.
The port has opened up a whole new transport corridor.
The two vessels, owned and operated by Maersk Shipping and Logistics, the world’s largest shipping line, will be carrying avocados and an assortment of goods.
Tucked in the Manda Bay area, Lamu port is part of the ambitious Lamu South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) corridor.
It is expected to transform regional economies through increased trade and regional inter-connectivity spanning South Sudan and landlocked Ethiopia.
Captain Godfrey Namadoa, Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) senior marine pilot who has been overseeing shipment of cargo-handling equipment from the Port of Mombasa to Lamu, is upbeat about the project.
“It is a port expected to grow transshipment cargo owing to its capacity to handle bigger vessels that can drop cargo there for redistribution by smaller ships to ports around the region such as Mombasa and Dar-es-Salaam,” he said.
“Already established global transshipment and maritime hubs such as the Port of Salalah in Oman and the Port of Durban in South Africa have taken interest in Lamu.’’
The port’s berths are 400 metres long and are designed to handle 30,000 Deadweight Tonnage (DWT) for general cargo and 100,000 DWT of container cargo.
This compares to Mombasa Port whose berths are less than 350 metres long and 15 metres deep. Big ships cannot pass through the Mombasa shipping channel.
Once complete, the port will have 32 berths. It will be the largest in sub-Saharan Africa. Already a number of firms in the maritime industry have indicated their readiness to move to Lamu.
Skyline Shipping and Logistics Company is one of the firms intending to set up base. Toyota Kenya has already built showrooms along the road to the new port.
Mombasa’s Premier Hospital is opening a branch in Lamu Island. The offices of the governor and county commissioner have been moved from Lamu Island to Mokowe.
Solomon Wao, the Skyline Shipping and Logistics managing director, said Lamu Port is the new investment hub and the company is eager to start operations there.
The Kenya Ships Agents Association (KSAA) said the port will complement Mombasa Port.
Vice chair Sylvester Kututa said the port will open up Northern Kenya. Lamu Port aims to serve Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan.