The volume of transit cargo at the Mombasa port has grown marginally despite a multi-million dollar expansion and modernisation programme that has boosted efficiency and turnaround time from five to two-and-a-half days.
The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) annual performance report shows that transit goods traffic increased by 1.1 per cent to 7.75 million tonnes.
Uganda remained the largest of the hinterland market, accounting for 81.9 per cent of the traffic — or 6.34 million tonnes.
South Sudan was second, followed by Tanzania — following the improvement of the Mombasa-Taveta-Holili road, which has seen an increased number of shippers in the north of the country prefer routing their consignments through the Mombasa port.
The others were the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Somalia, Burundi and Ethiopia in that order.
Last year, Kenya commissioned a $300 million second container terminal that is almost a kilometre long, with three docking berths providing an additional annual cargo-handling capacity of 550,000 Teus (20-foot-equivalent units).
The decrease in transit cargo traffic is partly attributed to the drop in regional countries’ use of Kenya’s petroleum products due to adulteration allegations.
This saw Uganda, Rwanda, the DRC and Burundi opt for the Dar es Salaam port.
These landlocked countries depend on either Mombasa or Dar es Salaam port to import their petroleum products, and data from Kenya’s Ministry of Energy shows that transit fuel imports have dropped in the past year.
While releasing the performance figures, KPA managing director Catherine Mturi-Wairi said that the facility handled 17.52 million tonnes of cargo in the seven months to July, compared with 15.6 million over the same period last year, which was an improvement of 12.3 per cent.
“We have continued to implement elaborate port modernisation programmes to position ourselves better in the region. We have also expanded our yards and berths, and acquired modern cargo handling equipment which have improved our efficiency,” said Ms Mturi.
Over the first seven months of this year, imports rose by 12.1 per cent to account for 14.8 million tonnes against 13.2 million handled in the same period in 2016.
Maize imports topped the bulk commodities list at 46,571 tonnes, followed by wheat which registered 41,392 tonnes.
Other items handled in bulk were 28,448 tonnes of sugar, 20,740 tonnes of clinker, 17,471 tonnes of fertiliser and 10,513 tonnes of steel. Others were 560 tonnes of bagged cement and 590 tonnes of mobile harbour cranes.
The port also handled 1,464 units of motor vehicles and 96 trucks.
“This increase in imports was driven by dry bulk commodities like wheat, clinker, palm and vegetable oil. The petroleum products also formed part of the goods that saw an increase in their volumes,” Ms Mturi-Wairi said.
In terms of exports, the port recorded a 1.7 per cent rise in traffic to 2.18 tonnes, from 2.14 tonnes in 2015. Coffee, tea, vegetables, fruits and juices formed the bulk of these items. The exports only account for 13 per cent of the port’s total annual output.
The port’s container traffic, which registered an increase of 10.7 per cent was above the global annual average of 4 per cent. It rose to 689,593 Teus from 622,787 Teus in 2015.
The port, which is a major trade gateway to East Africa, last year recorded the highest percentage of transshipment traffic of 45.4 per cent that saw it rise to 439,804 tonnes up from 302,547 tonnes.
“We have for the past few months put in a lot of effort and resources towards the promotion of this segment. We are now engaging key shipping lines and their principals in a bid to increase more of their cargo,” Ms Mturi said.
The port will also next year set for the construction of a second terminal that will provide an additional capacity of 450,000 TEUs. This comes after the operationalization of the first phase of this project last year.
The port authority also said that it was working on construction of a bigger oil terminal that it says will replace the current Kipevu oil terminal.
“This new terminal will incorporate a liquid petroleum gas pipeline and have the capacity to handle four vessels at any one time. This facility will also have pipes running on the sea bed to link with the Kenya Pipelines storage tanks,” the managing director said.
The construction of the facility is expected to take 30 months, and will see a four berth island terminal located inland and capable of loading and discharging crude oil, heavy fuel oil, aviation fuel, petrol and diesel.
The authority also plans to convert berths one and two into dedicated cruise terminal, away from the cargo traffic that they hand. It says this $1 million venture will improve on the tourism market which has seen a rise in cruise ships docking in the coastal city.