Mombasa port records decline in transit cargo

Saturday September 21 2019

Cargo containers at Mombasa port’s container terminal.

Cargo containers at Mombasa port’s container terminal. Kenya’s diplomatic tiff with Somali has negatively impacted the two countries’ trade, with latest data showing that Mogadishu is no longer importing any cargo through Mombasa. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

ANTHONY KITIMO
By ANTHONY KITIMO
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The port of Mombasa recorded a sharp decline in transit cargo destined to Ethiopia, Tanzania and Burundi in the first seven months of the year even as Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo raised their usage of the Kenyan port, official data has revealed.

Goods on transit to Tanzania from Mombasa dropped by 9.4 per cent to 141,000 tonnes in seven months to July this year, with tonnage expected to drop much further with increased usage of the $345 million World Bank-funded Dar es Salaam Maritime Gateway Project (DSMGP).

The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) data also shows that Ethiopia, expected to be a key player in the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) Corridor project, did not use the Kenyan port of Mombasa in the seven months to July, even as next month’s unveiling of the Lamu ports’ first berth draws closer.

KPA data showed transit goods to Ethiopia dropped to zero from 1,000 tonnes.

Ethiopia’s drop could be attributed to its investment in two of Djibouti’s ports and also usage of Somaliland’s ports.

Friendly relations

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The KPA data shows that Burundi, also a client of the Dar port, is dumping Mombasa as its cargo volumes in the seven months dropped by more than 90 per cent compared with the volumes traded over a similar period last year.

Imports to Burundi through Kenya plummeted to 1,000 tonnes compared with a total 21,000 tonnes during the same period last year.

Partly helped by friendly relations and continued investments in the Northern Corridor infrastructural development, Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo remained bright spots for the Mombasa port.

The reduction of time taken at weighbridges and the port has attracted more importers through the port of Mombasa.

The Northern Corridor serves as a critical passage for Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

Uganda remained Mombasa port’s biggest client, with more than 4.66 million tonnes of goods imported in the seven months to July this year, a marginal growth from 4.6 million last year.

Goods destined to the Democratic Republic of Congo jumped by 19.3 per cent from 269,000 tonnes last year to 321,000 tonnes this year.

More than 141,000 tonnes of cargo were transported to Rwanda this year compared with 121,000 tonnes through port of Mombasa while transit cargo to South Sudan jumped from 409,000 tonnes last year to 451,000 tonnes in 2019.

According to the East Africa Logistics Survey, the average cost of transporting a forty-foot container from Mombasa to Nairobi has dropped to Ksh102,360 ($1,000) last year from a high of Ksh133,598 ($1,300) in 2011 while that from Mombasa to Kampala came down to Ksh256,920 ($2,500) from Ksh349,411 ($3,400) over the same period.

Kenya-Somalia relations

Kenya’s diplomatic tiff with Somali has negatively impacted the two countries’ trade, with latest data showing that Mogadishu is no longer importing any cargo through Mombasa.

The sharp drop could also be attributed to the entry of Danish shipping line services Maersk, which began operating in Somali’s Mogadishu port in early January.

The KPA data shows that in the seven months to July, Somalia did not import any cargo through the port of Mombasa, a drop from the 1,000 tonnes it did over a similar period last year.

Kenya and Somalia have since the start of the year been locked in a maritime boundary row, which has since escalated in to a full diplomatic conflict.

Somalia sued Kenya at the ICJ, the UN’s principle Court, seeking to change the flow of the maritime boundary from the current eastwards direction from the land border at Kiunga to a diagonal flow, threatening Kenya’s sea stake.

The two countries have also recently imposed tougher immigration and air navigation controls on one another. Somalia boasts of the ports of Kismayu, Borsaso, Berbera and Mogadishu.

Agreement

Ethiopia agreed to jointly invest in four seaports with the Mogadishu administration as they both seek to attract foreign investment to their two countries, the latest move in its fight for access to ports.

In March last year, Ethiopia signed an agreement with Somaliland over the management of Berbera port, with Addis acquiring a 19 per cent stake in the port, joining DP World of the United Arab Emirates under a 30-year management concession.

Ethiopia has also recently been on a roll, acquiring stakes in Djibouti port of Doraleh, Port of Djibouti, Khartoum’s largest seaport of Port Sudan, its $80 million investment for a 19 per cent stake in Somaliland’s Port of Berbera and its recent announcement that it is also seeking a stake in the Eritrea Port.

Kenya in April hosted Uganda President Yoweri Museveni at the port of Mombasa and locked him in with an offer for an inland dry port as it sought to rewards Kampala’s business at the port.

“We have agreed that we shall will avail land in Naivasha for Uganda to develop a dry port for its cargo,” Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said.

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