Kenya Navy has taken control of the Kisumu Port as details of ongoing expansion and rehabilitation emerged ahead of the port’s long-awaited reopening.
The Sh3 billion makeover will place the 118 year-old port at the centre of marine trade in East and Central Africa.
Multiple sources from Government agencies working at the heavily-guarded port revealed how every section of the port is being fixed, with engineers from Kenya Railways, Kenya Navy, Kenya Ports Authority and Kenya Maritime Authority working overdrive to put the giant cargo ferry — MV Uhuru — back in operation.
“We are under pressure because President Uhuru Kenyatta wants detailed briefings almost on a daily basis. The port will be like a newly-built facility when its doors finally open to the public,” said a senior government official who requested anonymity.
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He added: “The President was keen on MV Uhuru during his two past visits here. He wants to see it sail again and we are almost through with the works. We are 90 per cent done with the vessel.”
During his third visit to the port while on a trip from Tanzania, the President boarded the 1,200 tonne ferry, inspected it and asked the engineer to start the engine to prove the steamer was still in good condition.
Yesterday, The Standard established that engineers are currently fixing the linkspan, the 262 metre-quay, the a rail-wagon ferry pier, including 90 meters of berthing space alongside the pier.
The dry dock, billed as the best in East Africa where ships will be going in for repairs, was also being worked on.
The renovation works at a warehouse measuring 50m by 16m on the main quay, and a 3,000 square metre paved storage area where containerised cargo will be stored, is almost complete.
Also undergoing makeover are offices for the harbour masters, customs, and the coast guards.
Contractors have also refurbished the Marine Training School and are building hostels complete with a swimming pool, and administration blocks a few metres from the port, adjacent to the once-famous Railways Institute bar which has since been demolished.
The President was set to host his counterparts from Uganda, Tanzania, DR Congo, Rwanda and Burundi during the official opening of the port on August 14.
Even though the function was called off at the eleventh hour due to what officials termed clashing diaries of other East African Heads of State who were expected to attend the launch, The Standard has established the delay was due to the fact some of the works had not been completed.
Yesterday, engineers were also inspecting and repairing the railway line between the port and the Kenya Pipeline where a Sh1.7 billion Oil Jetty has been constructed.
“The railway line will be used in ferrying oil wagons from the jetty to the port for onward transportation to the rest of the region,” said another official.
The government is paying attention to Kisumu because of its strategic location in promoting rail and water transport in the region.
It will be an important link between Mombasa port and other ports in Tanzania and Uganda and in the Central and Northern Corridor.
When it was operational, Kisumu Port handled cargo ships - MV Umoja from Tanzania, Kenya’s MV Uhuru, MV Kaawa and MV Kabalega and MV Pamba from Uganda.
The on-going works come at a time Tanzania is also rehabilitating its Mwanza, Bukoba and Musoma ports while Uganda is improving Port Bell and Jinja ports.
Yesterday, a visit to the port revealed heavy presence of the Kenya Navy officers who were frisking visitors and checking vehicles moving in and out.
Taking photos at the port has also been prohibited as the authorities move in to curb leisure activities that initially flowed freely at the port.
The tight security at the port comes with multi-billion shilling investments that have been shipped there.
A source said Marine and maritime equipment, including vessels that ply the lake, are costly, and the State does not want to gamble with such huge investments.