Construction activities for the Shs. 2.6 billion Shimoni fish port development project in Kwale County is gathering pace.
The construction of the new fishing port is expected to serve as a valuable platform for strengthening the local fishing industry and contributing to the overall country’s socio-economic development.
The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), which is spearheading the construction of the facility, is expediting the works on the iconic port project and aims to complete it by October 2024 to transform the coastal region.
Maritime stakeholders contend that the dedicated fish port project will expand on the country’s plans to develop port infrastructure and complement the existing Mombasa and Lamu commercial sea ports.
KPA is determined to complete the unique fishery facility in Lungalunga Sub County within 12 months, down from the initial period of 24 months, as per a recent directive given by President William Ruto.
The fish port will have ice making, fish processing, and freezing facilities, in addition to storehouses for fishing equipment.
The fish port facility is also likely to have a shipyard with a dedicated basin for floating docks and vessel maintenance, fishing and port-related amenities, small craft services, and access roads for seamless service delivery.
Architect James Rai, the Shimoni fish port project coordinator, says the presidential directive has increased the speed of work at the first fish-dedicated seaport that KPA is building with Southern Engineering Company Ltd. (SECO) as the main contractor.
Rai says KPA is determined to deliver the country’s first integrated fishing port on schedule and that the iconic project work is being carried out in two phases.
Rai says the new fishing port will be a safe and operational landing port as well as a safe shelter for fishermen and the local community in general.
He says the development of the facility, which encompasses a modern jetty measuring 75 by 30 metres with a causeway measuring 135 metres long and 7 metres wide, is taking shape at unparalleled speed. Also to be constructed will be a warehouse, a fish processing plant, cold storage, an ice-making plant, a port access road, and a commercial port gate, among other critical port facilities.
The KPA top official says other amenities in the pipeline include a power substation, water storage tanks, a perimeter fence, the main ablution block, a fish meal plant, a bio-digester, and waste-water management from the fish processing plant.
“But the entire new fishing harbour is likely to be completed by June next year and would be a game-changer for development,” he said, adding that the port project is designed to improve socio-economic conditions for the people of Shimoni and Wasini islands, who are traditionally fisher folk.
“The project status at the moment is 38 per cent complete, and before the end of thismonth,h main marine works shall have commenced in earnest in the next phase,” said Arch Rai.
The port construction company has already assembled marine onshore and offshore equipment and is reclaiming land to build quays and breakwaters in the new port area.
Arch Rai says the construction of the fishing port is expected to improve the living standards of local fishermen and lead to a more sustainable way of fishing.
Currently, the construction of the Shimoni port, which has an anticipated annual throughput of 50,000 metric tonnes, is at 38 per cent completion and is projected to be ready for use by October next year.
Arch Rai says that KPA had set the focus on the development of ports and harbours as they would generate huge employment and help boost the blue economy sector, which covers a wide range of economic activities such as fisheries, aquaculture, maritime transport, and tourism.
Rai was speaking when he conducted the National Government Development-County Implementation, Coordination, and Management Committee (NGD-CICMC) members on a tour of the port facility.
“We are set to fulfil the presidential directive to expedite the development of the first fishing port in the country to support the blue economy sector,” he said, and he underscored the need to consider value for money on infrastructure investments.
The NGD-CICMC members, under the leadership of Kwale County Commissioner (CC) Meru Mwangi, have embarked on an inspection tour of infrastructure projects across key sectors.
“All the iconic infrastructure projects were conceived and implemented by the national government to transform the landscape of Kwale and make life comfortable for area residents,” he said.
As part of the efforts to monitor the progress of work and see things for himself, Mwangi, accompanied by departmental heads, visited the port site, and the tour offered a first-hand assessment of the work done so far.
CC Mwangi says it is expected that when completed next year, the port facility will create employment for the teeming youth in the area.
Mwangi welcomed the port project, noting that one of the biggest challenges facing local fishermen has been the lack of proper infrastructure that can support large-scale fishing.
He says that under his watch, he would not allow public projects to remain uncompleted to the detriment of the public.
“As the NGD-CICMC chair, I would not allow infrastructure projects to drag on perennially because we must ensure value for money in government projects,” he said.
“The Shimoni fishing port will be a reality by 2024, and it will be a milestone in the maritime history of the country,” he said.
Mwangi says the national government is putting the work of the fishing port on fast track as it would not only secure the livelihood of fishermen but also attract huge maritime investments to Kwale.
The administrator says the construction of the project at Shimoni Island will improve its infrastructural outlook and that it is a plus for the people of Kwale, who have long bemoaned the lack of development projects in their coastal communities.
Benjamin Ndani, who is in charge of the Government Delivery Service (GDS) in Kwale, says they are happy that construction work is in full swing and that the project will keep its completion date.
Ndani echoed the sentiments of the CC and said infrastructure projects should not be allowed to slog on endlessly because public officials lack commitment and zeal for duty.
“The Shimoni port project will change the face of Kwale and the entire coastal region, and as the GDS, we are ready to clear all the bottlenecks to smooth implementation and turn the Shimoni dream into reality,” said Ndani, adding that the GDS puts high priority on development projects.
He says the GDS officials, in close collaboration with the NGD-CICM members, would also be responsible for supervising development projects.
Meanwhile, the NGD-CICMC members were told all major roads and bridges in the vicinity of the new modern fishing harbour are being developed and expanded.
The infrastructure projects include the construction of the Sh3 billion Kwale-Kinango road and the Mwachande Bridge and approach roads at a cost of Sh.538 million.
The road and bridge projects traverse an area where fishing, agriculture, and tourism are the main economic activities.
Kenya National Highway Authority (KeNHA) Coast Region official Eng. Lewis Maina says the Kwale-Kinango road project is approximately 30km long, and the scope of work entails construction to bitumen standards of a two-lane, two-way single carriageway.
“The contractor has mobilised well for the works with the majority of the required equipment and plant already on site,” said Eng. Maina.
On his part, Eng. Onesmus Ikoa, Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KeRRA) official says the Mwachande Bridge is being built across River Ramisi and seeks to connect Msambweni and Lungalunga sub counties.