Transport Minister Chirau Ali Mwakwere on Monday urged investors to prepare to build other grain handling facilities at the earmarked Lamu port and other inland port areas in the country.
Mr Mwakwere said people should not concentrate on Kilindini port, which is already congested at the moment and has no room for an additional grain handling facility.
Mr Mwakwere said Kilindini port handles very many products and it should not only be focused as grain port.
“Most of the investors think the government is creating monopoly to Grain Bulk Handlers Limited (GBHL) by not allowing other investors to set up their grain handling facilities but the government is protecting the area to ensure there is no congestion at the port,” said the minister.
Mr Mwakwere who is also Matuga MP said no investor has a monopoly in grain handling since there are other companies which import grains in the country, noting that already 39 per cent of grain at the Kilindini Port is handled by other companies.
He was speaking in Kwale town after meeting councillors from the Kwale county council who had earlier asked the minister to clear the air on the planned privatisation of the port.
The councillors led by the council chairman Mshenga Ruga expressed fears that such a move would lead to sacking of people and putting the resources in private hands.
“The government is ready to license even more than five grain handlers to invest on other areas such as Dongo Kundu and at the earmarked port at Lamu where the future of maritime business lies,” said the Minister.
Mr Mwakwere said the space at Kilindini Port is not adequate to create any other grain handling facility since some of the land was sold to private investors by his predecessors early 1990’s and urged people not to politicise the issue.
He said any investor who wishes to create the facility in the two earmarked regions should submit their applications to be considered. Those already in business, the minister said, should prepare for stiffer competition, as investors will be putting in money on modern and sophisticated equipment for grain handling and other services.
“We encourage other investors to come in with modern facilities to compete with GBHL since the dredging of Dongo Kundu is scheduled to start in December this year while the construction of Lamu Port will be constructed by 2013,” said the Minister.
Mr Mwakwere said there are advance steps in ensuring Lamu port is constructed within the stipulated time.
“A China contractor has already signed a deal with the Kenyan government to start building Witu-Lamu road to ensure there is smooth flow of materials during the setting up of the port,” said Mr Mwakwere.
He said all the operations at the port could end up being privatised so long as there was justification to do so.
“People should not fear privatisation as it helps in enhancing efficiency just as was witnessed with the handling of oil and grains at the port. But this will only be done when there is need and not just for the sake of it,” he said.