Lamu Island Kenya Photo 237851250 Port © Anja Koeberle
Lamu Island Kenya. © Anja Koeberle

Ningbo-Zhoushan Port Co and China Merchants Port Holdings (CMPH) are to invest around $2.22bn in three port projects in Africa and the Mediterranean.

It forms part of the Belt and Road initiative in what has become a competition hot-spot on the African continent.

Yesterday’s announcement of a link-up between India’s Adani Group and Abu Dhabi Ports to develop a port and logistics hub in Tanzania today was matched by China’s second-busiest container port operator and CMPH to also develop hub facilities in Tanzania, as well as in neighbour Kenya.

Ningbo-Zhoushan Port announced that its first project will be in Tanzania’s Bagamoyo Special Economic Zone, East Africa’s main transport channel and the country’s main export gateway. The investment cost is estimated at $740m.

The potential in Tanzania mainly stems from its “gateway access” to cargo volumes moving in and out of the six land-locked countries of Malawi, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.

Ningbo-Zhoushan Port intends to build an urban compound in Tanzania, modelled on the industrial zone around China’s Shekou (Shenzhen) port, including logistics parks, tourism parks, industrial parks, international airports, banks, railway hubs and warehouses.

The second project, estimated at $787m,is said to be at Kenya’s Lamu port, which the government is hoping to develop to alleviate pressure on the country’s main port, Mombasa, more than 300km away. One of the flagship developments of Kenya Vision 2030, launched by President Mwai Kibaki in 2008, is a transport corridor linking Lamu Port, Ethiopia and South Sudan, including road, rail and oil pipelines, deep into the African hinterland.

Lamu Port has a 10km coastline, can accommodate 23 berths, and has a water depth of 17.5 metres, compared with 15 metres in Mombasa, enabling it to handle large containerships. The port will serve as a transhipment hub, competing with Durban and Djibouti to strengthen Kenya’s position as a logistics hub in East Africa. Lamu is expected to handle 23.7m tonnes of cargo by 2030.

In 2019, the Kenyan government received a public-private investment proposal from CMPH to jointly develop the Lamu Special Economic Zone, which included the construction, management and operation of Berths 1-3 at Lamu Port and the development of the new Lamu Industrial City.

Ningbo-Zhoushan Port divulged little about the third project, except that it is in the Mediterranean and a gateway into Eastern Europe and West Asia, offering a bridge to east-west tradelanes. Chinese media reports suggest it could be a Turkish port development, and the investment cost is estimated at $696m.

Ningbo-Zhoushan Port expects the new projects to bring in annual revenue of $250m. It said CMPH “has a deep grasp of the Belt and Road initiative”, with a port network covering 50 ports in six continents and 25 countries and regions. Last year, container throughput from ports in CMPH’s portfolio stood at 33.57m teu, up from 20.84m teu in 2019.

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