Five Lake Victoria ports to be upgraded in trade push

Kendu Bay Pier

 A section of Kendu Bay Pier in Homa Bay County. 

Photo credit: Tonny Omondi | Nation Media Group

Five small ports in Lake Victoria are set for an upgrade to support the operations of the newly revamped main Kisumu port as part of a plan to grow East Africa trade.

The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and Trade Mark East Africa said Sio Pier, Port Victoria, Asembo Bay, Kendu Bay, and Homa Bay satellite ports will be upgraded to spur trade within the lake.

“The rehabilitated landing sites will serve the local communities by enabling transport between Kisumu port to these small ports by lake through the use of small RORO (roll-on, roll-off vessels or barges. Currently, the communities on the shores of Lake Victoria are primarily served by road and they travel over long distances which could easily be covered through Lake Victoria,” KPA said in a call for an environmental impact assessment on the project.

RORO vessels are primarily designed to carry wheeled cargo, such as cars, motorcycles, trucks, semi-trailer trucks, and buses.

The ongoing refurbishment of the main Kisumu port as well as the planned repair and upgrade of satellite piers is projected to further improve merchandise trade in the region.

Kisumu Port has recorded steady growth in the last five years following rehabilitation. Volume of cargo has grown 15 times from 3,431 tonnes in 2017 to 54,014 tonnes in 2021 while the number of vessels docking at Kisumu port has significantly increased to 77 last year compared to 2017. The growth trend is expected to triple in the next five years, exerting pressure to rehabilitate the satellite ports.

Before the collapse of the lake transport system, Homa Bay was a key shipping point for goods to neighbouring Tanzania. Vessels from Kisumu docked in Homa Bay and offloaded cargo which was then transported by truck to the Tanzanian border two hours away.

Mbita and Lunda K’otieno currently host regular ferry services by private firms and the upgrade of facilities in Kisumu is expected to boost trade in merchandise.

Kisumu port, which is a critical hub for trade with the neighbouring countries of Tanzania and Uganda and by extension Rwanda and Burundi as well as those in the Great Lakes region, has undergone major upgrades since 2019.

The Kisumu upgrade has included concreting the port yard, construction of the quayside, repairs of the linkspan, revamping the dry dock, and rehabilitation of all buildings to boost efficiency. All roads within and the link roads to the port facility have also been repaired and feeder jetties and piers are also being put in place. The port has further been equipped with equipment such as forklift trucks, mobile cranes, and tractor-trailers.

The upgraded facilities have improved the performance of the Kisumu port which had for close to three decades been paralysed.