New $66.7m berth to confirm Kenya as regional trade hub

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Construction of Birth 19 underway in Mombasa. Pictures: File.

Construction of Birth 19 underway in Mombasa. Pictures: File.  

By A JOINT REPORT The EastAfrican

Posted  Saturday, August 24   2013 at  10:42

In Summary

  • Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Paul Kagame of Rwanda are expected to officially open the Ksh5.6 billion ($66.7 million) berth which is expected to raise the port’s capacity by 33 per cent.
  • The expected presence of the three presidents cements a new economic-political re-alignment shaping up in the EAC around Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda.
  • The country is also pushing for the completion of a second container terminal at a cost of $320 million.

The new berth, which is expected to enable faster clearance of goods, has seen the ship quay area at the port container terminal expanded to 840 metres and the container stacking yard expanded by about 15 acres.

This will allow it to handle three ships of 270 metres each or four ships of 200 metres each. The facility has been under construction since July 2011.

Gichiri Ndua, the KPA managing director, said with the new berth, the port will now be equipped to handle 800,000 twenty feet containers (teu), up from the current 600,000 teu per year.

“However the container terminal is still overstretched and is handling more than 300,000 teu above the required capacity. The new berth is expected to boost container handling operations at the port,” said Mr Ndua.

‘Too much’ cargo to handle

The Mombasa port handled 903,000 teu last year, a figure expected to rise to one million this year, meaning the port will still be handling more cargo than it is designed to handle.

Years of under-investment in the country’s transport infrastructure have put pressure on the Mombasa port, eroding its claim to be the region’s gateway and exposing it to competition from the Dar es Salaam port.

Thus, in the past three years, cargo meant for the hinterland of Uganda, Rwanda, DRC and Burundi passing through the port of Dar es Salaam has grown by an average of 25 per cent per year.

According to Trademark East Africa, despite Mombasa charging lower fees — the World Bank estimates Dar is 74 per cent more expensive for users than Mombasa.

Dar es Salaam has increased its share of Rwanda’s imports and exports to 68 per cent from 41 per cent in 2008, at the expense of Mombasa, whose share of that trade has shrunk to 32 per cent from 59 per cent .

Tanzania also accounted for 89 per cent of Burundi’s cargo at the end of that period, up from 76 per cent in 2008, compared with Mombasa’s 11 per cent.

Business leaders and trade experts said Kenya’s poor showing is attributable to delays in goods clearance at the port, at weighbridges and border posts.

“The long dwell-time at the port not only affects operations but also has a ripple effect on the entire supply chain,” said Meshack Kipturgo, the managing director at Siginon Group, a regional cargo logistics services company.

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