Election jitters slow down activity at Mombasa port

Saturday August 12 2017

Cargo await clearance at the Mombasa port.  PHOTO | FILE

Cargo await clearance at the Mombasa port. Activity at the port slowed as transporters pulled their fleets off the road over post-election uncertainties. PHOTO | FILE 

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Activity at the Mombasa port, which serves landlocked Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, slowed this past week as transporters pulled their fleets off the road over post-election uncertainties.

Fears of unrest heightened as Nasa presidential candidate Raila Odinga disputed the tallying of the vote.

Concerns over the impact of a disputed poll saw a low turnout of transit trucks. 

“During voting day and Thursday we recorded a low turnout of trucks. But all the 21 berths have been occupied and we are offloading ships,” said Kenya Ports Authority spokesman Bernard Osero.

“Few trucks are coming in. We need to see more trucks, we are on duty. But we have started seeing a few trucks trickling in. We are monitoring the situation. Documentation is going on as usual. We cannot specify which country they are from because there are very few trucks coming in,” he said.

Clearing firms reported little or no activity for most of the election week.

“We have not processed even a single container for the past three days,” Hamisi Idy, a clearing officer at Equal Maritime Services told The EastAfrican.

Massive losses

At the height of the 2007-08 post-election violence, importers in Kenya and within the region incurred massive losses after their cargo was either delayed or stolen along the Northern Corridor route.

Uganda, Rwanda, the DRC and South Sudan were starved of supplies with parts of the Northern Corridor cut off and the railway line vandalised.

The violence led to shortages of commodities in the countries, pushing up prices. Compensation claims of $50 million by businesses in Rwanda and Uganda to be paid in reparation for the losses are yet to be addressed by the Kenya government.

Cargo volume

Data obtained from the KPA shows that the port handled 15 million tonnes of cargo between January and June this year. This was a 12 per cent increase over the 13.4 million tonnes cleared in the same period last year.

In June, however, there was an increase in volume from two million tonnes to 2.7 million tonnes. The increase of 30.5 per cent suggests that traders were stocking up ahead of the elections to forestall any possible shortages.

Transit cargo handled through the port increased to 649,290 tonnes, from 588,767 tonnes in June 2016. Uganda, which commands over 70 per cent of transit goods, was said to have diverted business to the port of Dar es Salaam for the election period.

Minimal activity was reported at the usually busy Northern Corridor highway.

In Nairobi, major streets remained deserted and businesses remained closed on Wednesday as traders and residents maintained a wait-and-see attitude. By Friday, more shops and offices were operational.

Public service operators were the first to decry the prolonged poll-related business slowdown, saying its members within the city and other major towns were counting losses running into millions of shillings every day due to the delayed election results announcement.

Simon Kimutai, chairman of the Matatu Owners Association — an umbrella body for public service vehicles — said public service operators were ready to resume work.

Industry experts estimate that it could take up to 10 days after the election for business operations can return to normalcy.

-Additional reporting by Victor Kiprop