President Uhuru Kenyatta on Sunday visited the refurbished Sh 3 billion Kisumu port ahead of its official reopening whose date is yet to be announced.
Sources at the event revealed that the president will open the port after one month.
The government seeks to restore the once vibrant East Africa hub to its glory days with the ports renovation meant to allow bigger vessels to dock in to enhance trade with neighboring countries.
The president in an impromptu visit to the lakeside city landed at the port accompanied by General Kibochi Robert Chief of Defense Force Philip Mainga Kenya Railways Managing Director and Matilda Sakwa the Director General NYS in three military choppers.
His first stop over at the port was at the MV Uhuru which was rehabilitated by Kenya Navy at about Sh200 million before he was taken round by marine boat for 30 minutes and later to MVU Uhuru.
MV Uhuru ship has so far done 17 commercial trips to Port Belt and Jinja since December and transported 17,000 litres of fuel. That translates to one million litres of fuel per trip.
The renovated port was expected to be officially commissioned by President Uhuru Kenyatta, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Felix Tshisekedi of DR Congo in August last year, then moved to November, later to January until now.
The President also inspected the the railway-line for 20 minutes before later boarding the chopper back.
Last week Interior PS Karanja Kibicho said the Covid-19 outbreak had slowed down the preparations to launch the mega project.
Kibicho noted that as soon as the virus eases down, the President will announce a date for the official launch.
Already the NYS teams have begun clearing bushes on the 217-kilometre Nakuru-Kisumu railway track as the Sh3.8 billion rehabilitation project begins and expected to be completed within the next eight months.
The railway line once complete will provide both cargo and passenger travel services
Deputy director-General Zachary Mutua said two NYS teams – from Nakuru and Kisumu- are already on site.
So far the teams, which started work on August 1, have cleared bushes on more than 30 kilometres and will meet at Fort-Tenan in Muhoroni sub-county of Kisumu.
The Nakuru-Kisumu team will do 125 kilometres and their Kisumu-Nakuru counterparts 95 kilometres. The old railway line has been dormant for 25 years.
Mutua said the four months’ clearing works were on track to allow the KDF team to start refurbishing the meter-gauge railway.
“We are committed to delivering the project within the given time without delays. The NYS will also do other manual work,” he said.
CAS Defense CAS Peter Odoyo noted that the Nakuru-Kisumu railway is very important to the newly-rehabilitated port which requires cargo to make it viable.
“It is being prioritized and we thank President Uhuru Kenyatta for entrusting the work to military and NYS. We are going to deliver within stipulated time if we get the materials on time,” Odoyo said.
Odoyo said Uhuru and ODM leader Raila Odinga were committed to revamping the Kisumu port and Nakuru-Kisumu railway to boost regional trade.
Upon completion, he said, businesses that relied on the railway will bounce back, creating opportunities for youths.