The next few days are set to mark a turnaround for Kisumu and the lake region as the government unveils the revamped Kisumu Port, which has undergone an intensive seven-month upgrade.
All is set for the anticipated launch, which is expected to put the port back on the map of Kenya’s shipping and maritime economy, and on the path to recovering its lost glory.
The project is considered part of a package being delivered to the region following the new-found working relationship between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga.
The government has pumped more than Sh3 billion into the port’s rehabilitation, closely monitored by the President and Mr Odinga who have made several visits.
The two will be joined by East African heads of state for the launch, whose date is yet to be confirmed.
As at Monday, planning teams were working with the tentative date of August 15, as earlier announced by Mr Odinga and the Office of the President.
A team from the Presidential Delivery Unit is expected to conduct a final inspection today (Tuesday.)
Sources involved in the project told the Nation that 90 per cent of the work is complete. “We are still working with the tentative date. But there is a likelihood that the launch date could be pushed back until the remaining work is finished. It is not advisable to rush,” the source, who requested anonymity, said.
The upgraded port facilities and shipyard are expected to improve efficiency and sustain ship building repairs at the inland port.
In its heyday, the port served as a key passenger and cargo hub linking Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania through Bell, Jinja, Bukoba and Mwanza ports.
It was the biggest dry dock in the continent, where vessels such as SS Usonga, SS Nyanza, mv Victoria and mv Uhuru were manufactured.
But, the collapse of the railway network and the recurring hyacinth problem sank its fortunes.
The port has been underused for years, despite its strategic location and huge potential for serving the landlocked countries in the Great Lakes region.
Last year, for instance, it handled just 13,500 tonnes of cargo. Uganda accounted for more than 90 per cent of the cargo.
As part of its development plan for Kisumu, the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) plans to promote shipping by establishing an international logistics centre at the port, making it a regional hub.
The KPA and Kisumu County government are expected to work closely with Lake Region Economic Bloc countries to market the facility.