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Maritime and Inland Water Transport in Kenya

Maritime and Inland Water Transport in Kenya

The maritime transport system in Kenya consists of one major seaport, Mombasa and other smaller scheduled ports along the Kenyan coastline i.e. Funzi, Vanga, Shimoni, Kilifi, Malindi, Lamu, Kiunga and Mtwapa.

The port of Mombasa which is managed by Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) is one of the modern ports in Africa. It handles all types of ships and cargo services not only for Kenya but also for the Kenyan hinterland and land-locked countries of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Somalia, Southern Sudan and North-Eastern Tanzania.

The port has 16 deep-water berths of which three handle containers and 13 deal with conventional cargo. There are two oil jetties for refined and crude oil with a capacity of handling tankers of up to 80,000 DWT.

The challenge for the Port of Mombasa is that of attracting and handling increasing traffic within Kenya and from the neighbouring countries as well as international traffic from outside the region. Although KPA rendered satisfactory services over the years, like other parastatals, its efficiency has been hampered by bureaucracy for many years.

KPA owns and operates Inland Container Depots (ICDs) or “dry ports” at Nairobi, Kisumu and Eldoret, all of which are connected to the port of Mombasa by a special rail service (railtainer) for the transportation of containerised imports and exports. At the moment only Kisumu and Nairobi ICDs are operational.

Inland water transport, Kenya makes the least use of her portion of Lake Victoria, compared to Uganda and Tanzania despite considerable potential for the country to make use of the relatively low-cost inland water transport to promote trade with Uganda and Tanzania through the port of Kisumu.

Despite its potential for tourism in western Kenya, marine transport on Lake Victoria is neglected. Currently Kisumu’s port infrastructure is in poor state and needs rehabilitation and maintenance. The same applies to the smaller ports and piers most of which are inoperable due to lack of maintenance.

Ferry services are currently provided by Kenya Ferry Services (KFS) Ltd. (which provides these services across the Likoni Channel at Likoni and Mtongwe) and KRC which operates ferries on Lake Victoria. The KFS currently operates as a parastatal owned by the Government of Kenya and Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) on an 80 %: 20 % shareholding. The services, both at the coast and on Lake Victoria, are governed by outdated laws, inappropriate institutional frameworks, inadequate capital, poor safety standards and lack of third party insurance.

The critical importance of inland water transport in the Lake Basin in Kenya is underlined by its strategic link with the multi-modal transport network converging on Kisumu City as a hub from where road, railway, pipeline and air transport have direct connections to other destinations in Kenya and with all countries in the Great Lakes region through Tanzania and Uganda