10 ships dock at Mombasa port as business picks up

Mombasa Port

The port of Mombasa in September last year. Business is growing steadily.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Ten ships docked at the Mombasa port on Thursday evening, giving port managers hope of a turnaround after the Covid-19 crisis impacted transshipment traffic.

Before Covid-19 reached our shores last March, the same number of vessels had docked at the port in the first quarter. The Kenya Ports Authority is upbeat of a strong growth in the transshipment business this year.

This is also attributed to an improved performance in the fourth quarter of 2020, with the average working time reducing by two days.

Acting Head of Container Operations Patrick Makau said he is looking forward to posting improved performance this year now that business is slowly returning.

"In the week ending January 20, 2021, we recorded a ship average working time of 3.19 days while the import container dwell time was 4.69 days, which is an improvement, thus attracting more ships to the port," said Mr Makau.

 He added the container terminals have been very busy having increased the cargo volumes handled in the first three weeks of the year.

"Transshipment traffic by PIL (K) shipping line alone registered 8,106 Twenty Foot Equivalent Units (teus) in December 2020, up from 7,729 teus in November," he said.

Container deliveries

At the port container terminal, 13,057 teus (full and empty) were expected to be discharged on Friday while another 13,069 teus were to be loaded for export.

On cargo transportation, container deliveries by road transport registered 6,324 teus compared to 5,024 teus by the standard gauge railway.

Import population breakdown for the week ended January 20 indicated 5,457 teus transit-bound compared with 4,066 for local destinations. Uganda-bound traffic remains the highest, where it recorded 4,758 teus, accounting for 87.2 per cent.

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) bound cargo came in second with 239 teus followed by South Sudan with 219 teus.

Other transit destinations were Rwanda, which accounted for 126 teus, Tanzania with103 teus with Somalia and Burundi accounting for nine teus and three teus respectively.

The impressive performance trend recorded in 2019 was curtailed by the Covid-19 pandemic, which affected businesses across the globe last year.

Transshipment segment posted 211,604 teus compared to 121, 577 teus in 2018 representing a growth of 70 per cent. The performance later slumped to 175, 827 teus in 2020.

Despite the setbacks, KPA is hopeful that the port will attract more business this year as some of the key infrastructure development projects are also projected to be complete by the end of the year.

The Kipevu Oil Terminal, a new terminal that will increase the oil handling capacity at the port, is set to be ready by the end of the year. Meanwhile, normalcy in container deliveries, especially transit containers, is expected to resume after a lull occasioned by internet shut down in Uganda, the leading port transit customer.

Uganda is also expected to benefit from the Kisumu Port once complete.

Kisumu port

The government has embarked on dredging and expansion of the Kisumu port to ease navigation of big ships in Africa’s biggest inland dry port.

Speaking during the launch of desilting exercise yesterday, ODM leader Odinga said that the port accommodates up to 10 big ships.

The port is expected to restore Kisumu as a commercial hub and revolutionise business activity in the lakeside city.

The 70-metre long and 4,000-tonne dredger leased from a Uganda-based Chinese firm – The Mango Tree Group -- has been lying idle since the its commissioning by Mr Odinga in January 2019.

The dredging and the removal of hyacinth will also cover feeder ports Kendu Bay, Homa Bay, Asembo Bay, Sio Port, Bunyala, Karungu and Muhuru Bay.

Lake Basin Development Authority managing director Raymond Omollo and his chairman Odoyo Owidi said they target to remove over 80,000 tonnes of hyacinth.