Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have signed agreements to boost regional trade by cutting red tape to hasten the movement of goods between the port of Mombasa and the hinterland.

Kenya also wants to keep its status as the trading hub of the region, fighting of competition from the port of Dar es Salaam in neighbouring Tanzania.

The new power facility at the port will also supply a new berth commissioned in August and a second container terminal being built at a cost of $300 million, the port’s management said.

The backup plant will produce 132 kilo volts (Kv) of electricity up from the current 11 Kv, and will cost $6.4 million to build, Bernard Osero, the port corporate affairs manager, said in a statement.

It would be completed by February 2014, Osero said.

“It will cushion port operations from frequent power outages (and) enable the port meet the growing electricity demand from existing facilities and future expansion projects,” Osero said.

A three-day blackout at the port cost the port $800,000 after it crippled the giant ship-to-shore cranes at the Mombasa Container Terminal, leading to a backlog of ships waiting to berth.

Kenya’s sole power distributor, Kenya Power, blamed a fire that destroyed its main transmission plant in Mombasa for the blackout which also affected the airport and petroleum refinery plant in the country’s second-biggest city. (Reuters)