Photo courtesy of the Port of Mombasa
Photo courtesy of the Port of Mombasa

Driven by Africa's rapid economic growth, ports throughout the continent are undergoing major expansions. Africa has experienced an average of 4.5% to 5% of overall growth in the past three years, leading to big increases in its export-import volumes.

The demand for port capacity is driven largely by the expanding construction and mining sectors, which require increases of construction-equipment imports and oil and mineral exports.

Eastern Africa’s largest economy, Kenya, which enjoyed a growth in its gross domestic product of 4.5% in 2011, has only one port, Mombasa. The port serves as the major gateway to the landlocked countries of Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), the state operator of the Mombasa port, says the port handled 20 million tonnes of cargo by the end of 2011—a 30% increase from 2006. According to KPA’s managing director, Gichiri Ndua, the resurgence in cargo volumes and the introduction of bigger vessels “requires greater depth and longer quays.”

“To cope with the foreseen developments, there is a need to undertake dredging of the channel and widening of the turning basin to facilitate full realization of the benefits associated with bigger vessel draught,” says Ndua.

KPA has launched a phased dredging campaign to accommodate post-Panamax vessels, construction of berth No. 19, construction of a $300-million new container terminal and investment in acquisition of new handling equipment.

Dutch company Van Oord Dredging and Marine Contractors has just completed phase one of dredging, widening the Likoni channel to 300 meters from 250 m.

Van Oord’s Mombasa port project manager, Simon Zondervan, says nine points were previously dredged, widening the turning basin to 600 m, with adequate room for 350-m-long vessels. He adds that the port’s harbor also was dredged to a depth of 12.5 m from the initial 10.4 m. The channel’s depth was increased to 15 m from 13.5 m.

KPA also has awarded China Road and Bridge Construction Corp. the contract for the construction of berth No. 19 under phase two of the port’s expansion. When completed at the end of the year, the new berth will add 240 m to the existing 600 m.

In the same phase, Toyo Construction, Japan, is building a new $300-million container terminal. The construction broke ground in November 2012. The facility is sitting on 100 hectares of land reclaimed with material dredged under phase one by Van Oord. When completed in 2014, the terminal will have a capacity of 1.2-million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs).

Berths Nos. 21, 22 and 23 are being dredged by Dutch firm Boskalis, which also is conducting related land reclamation. The new berths will have a total length of 900 m.

Tanzania—whose GDP for 2012 is projected at 6.8%, with prospects of rising to 8.5% by 2016—also is expanding its main port of Dar es Salaam and finalizing plans for the construction of a new one at Tanga.