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Port workers say layoffs loom if Sh27bn terminal is privatised

Dock Workers Union Secretary-General Simon Sang. FILE Photo | Kevin Odit | NMG
Dock Workers Union Secretary-General Simon Sang. FILE Photo | Kevin Odit | NMG 

The Dock Workers Union has reiterated its opposition to denationalization of the second container terminal at the port of Mombasa citing likelihood of massive job losses.

Speaking to the Business Daily, General Secretary Simon Sang claims may workers risk being rendered jobless if the terminal is privatised.

“The second container terminal shall never be privatised because if that is done I can assure you 5000 employees will be offloaded from payroll. That will be a matter of life and death,” said Mr Sang Wednesday.

However, the Business Daily has established that out of the Kenya Ports Authority's (KPA) 6,000 workers who are members of the union, only about 1,000 of them currently work at the new terminal.

One of the conditions for funding the Sh27 billion three-phase terminal by the Japanese government was that it would be operated privately.

“The government has suspended the process. But we are still as a union building cordial relationship with the government to enable us negotiate for permanent degazettement of the facility. The suspension by the government is basically on technical grounds,” he said.

Tender not awarded

KPA has previously denied claims that the tender for the concession to handle cargo at the second container terminal was secretly awarded to a Dubai based firm.

Last month, the agency's MD dismissed claims by Mr Sang saying she was not aware of any such development.

“We cancelled the tender and have not yet awarded it to anyone. KPA is running the terminal as of now and I am not even aware of plans to re-advertise the tender anytime soon,” KPA managing director Catherine Mturi-Wairi said.



Mombasa port at the second container terminal that is now operational. Photo | Jeff Angote | NMG
Mombasa port at the second container terminal that is now operational. Photo | Jeff Angote | NMG

While the first phase with a capacity of 450,000 teus (twenty-foot equivalent unit) was completed and handed over to KPA in March last year and later commissioned by President Uhuru Kenyatta, phase two and three will be completed by 2020.

The project will add 1.2 million teus to the existing 1.5 million capacity at the port.

“After privatisation, all cargo will be directed to that terminal because it will be highly mechanised, rendering employees at the existing facility irrelevant. That is our concern as a union because our members will lose their jobs,” he said.

There are over 6,000 workers at KPA who are members of the union amid concerns that the agency's payroll is bloated.

Bids cancelled

The tender to operate the terminal was cancelled in July last year after allegations that some bidders had colluded with senior KPA officials in a bid to secure the contract.

Some of the top firms that had been tipped to take up the job include Hutchison Ports Investments based in Hong Kong, DP World (Dubai), PSA International (Singapore), China Merchants Holdings and SSA Port Terminal.

All these firms are listed among the top 10 terminal operators globally.