Shipping & Logistics

Chinese firm gets nod to extend SGR tracks to port berths

Mombasa port. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Mombasa port. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The Chinese firm running Kenya’s fast train services has won a major deal in its bid to control haulage of bulky port cargo following the exit of the Rift Valley Railways (RVR).

The Kenya Railways, which has taken back all the RVRs operations, has allowed the China Road and Bridges Corporation (CRBC) to extend the fast train tracks to cover its 10 berths.

In the port’s logistics sense, the move is seen as a major coup against the century-old meter gauge track whose freight business has traditionally been dominated by heavy and bulk cargo. The RVR, which operated cargo haulage on the old tracks up to the end of August, had blocked the CRBC from extending the standard gauge railway (SGR) lines deeper into the port.

It argued the move threatened its ability to load steel and clinker onto its vessels. Just 13 days after RVR’s  exit, the Kenya Railways says the CRBC has a free hand to construct the second phase of SGR lines between berths 1 and 10 of the Mombasa port.

“Indeed the detailed designs have been undertaken,” said Mr Maxwell Mengich, the Kenya Railways’ manager in charge of the SGR project. “A joint meeting of representatives of Kenya Railways, KPA and RVR, had agreed that the port relief lines from berth No. 10 to Berth No, 1 would be constructed.”

The greenlight has since been communicated to project advisor Apec and Edon Consultants. By extending the lines, bulky and heavy goods like iron, steel, clinker and cement are likely to wholly shift to the SGR service. Kenya imported two million tonnes of clinker and 1.44 million tonnes of iron and steel.

China Communication Construction Company (CCCC), the firm which won a five-year contract to manage SGR train services, said it will roll out the freight service in December.

Unlike the RVR which used to charge between Sh67 and Sh145,000  per 20-foot container depending on the weight, the CCCC is expected to initially ask for a uniform promotional charge of Sh50,000 per container.

The Kenya Ports Authority says the SGR will be assigned 40 per cent of Mombasa port’s yard cargo, leaving the meter gauge service run by Kenya Railways to fight it out with trucks for the remaining containers.

It costs an average of Sh100,000 to move a container of goods by truck between Mombasa and Nairobi.