Last week with the inauguration of Port Lamu in Kenya, a new port came into operation in the Indian Ocean. The first berth of Lamu Port was officially opened by President Uhuru Kenyatta in a ceremony, where he observed the loading and offloading of two ships. Constructed by the China Communication Company at $480m, the berth has a depth of 17.5m and has the capacity of handling 400,000 containers per year.
Port Lamu is part of the ambitious $24bn transport corridor between Kenya, Ethiopia, and South Sudan. With its 32 berths, the Lamu port facility will be costing approximately $5 billion. The Lamu Port South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET) also includes a railway line, a pipeline, and a network of roads connecting Garissa, Isiolo, Turkana, Moyale, and Lamu. The road network will be reducing transportation costs for shipments headed towards Nairobi and Garsen as trucks will no longer need to go via Mombasa.
Port Lamu was constructed with the aim of integrating marginalized northern Kenya with the rising Kenyan economy. The road network through the northern frontier will be presenting opportunities for commerce for the region. Kenya plans to make Lamu the port of convenience for landlocked Ethiopia and Sudan. Bringing business from Ethiopia can prove challenging for Kenya as Ethiopia has regained use of the Red Sea ports of Massawa and Assab whereas the inbound trade of Ethiopia arrives through the Port of Djibouti. On the other hand, for Sudan, Luma Port can become a maritime gateway in the Indian Ocean as it can be a major alternative to Port Sudan.
A key concern for Port Lamu can be the militant groups active in Somalia. Being just 100Km from the Somalian border, Lamu has witnessed militant attacks in the past 15 years. The network of roads will be passing through the sparsely populated region and thus they will stand vulnerable to attacks from Somalia-based militant groups.