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Activity at Mombasa port back to normal following poll jitters

Imported maize is loaded at the Port of Mombasa. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Imported maize is loaded at the Port of Mombasa. FILE PHOTO | NMG  

Operations at the Mombasa port have normalised after a week of slow activity caused by the General Election, the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) said today.

According to KPA head of corporate affairs, Bernard Osero, the facility is now back to receiving, delivering containers and handling of conventional cargo.

“Operations have normalised and we expect to resume daily deliveries of up to 1,700 containers once trucks that left Mombasa after the polls return to the port,” said Mr Osero.

On Monday, 1,175 containers were delivered to the 16 Container Freight Stations (CFSs) and to upcountry destinations, while between August 8 and last Sunday, 106,669 tonnes of cargo was handled.

Anxious transporters had withdrawn their trucks from roads fearing they would be vandalised in the event election violence erupted.

While trucks that left the port last Saturday and Sunday after the polls were expected for their return trip after five or six days, there are expectations that normal port fluidity will be achieved by end of this week, Mr Osero said.

Clear maize, sugar backlog

However, grain handlers are rushing to clear a backlog of at least 14 vessels loaded with maize, bagged sugar and fertiliser that are waiting to offload cargo at the port.

While some of the vessels will offload at the mechanised Grain Bulk Handlers Limited (GBHL) terminal, others will go the conventional way, a process that takes longer.

GBHL terminal manager Michael Mwakamba said the backlog for grain vessels has built up since August 5 after most of the casual workers travelled upcountry to vote.

“Offloading was quite slow the whole of last week because there were few workers. But we expect to reduce the backlog this week since loaders have returned,” he said, adding that it might take up to 10 days to clear vessels lined up at the port.

Offloading grain the conventional way is tedious at a rate of 2,500 tonnes for 24 hours, while at the GBHL 15,000 tonnes are offloaded over the same period.

Mr Mwakamba said most of the maize, especially that imported under the government’s duty waiver window, was being loaded into bulk containers for delivery to millers.

More than 50,000 tonnes have already been transported using bulk containers via the standard gauge railway trains.

Rise in dry cargo

KPA data shows that dry bulk cargo posted an increase of 55.1 per cent to hit 737,221 tonnes in June this year compared with 475,426 tonnes last year.

This is followed by liquid bulk which increased by 254,727 tonnes or 48.6 per cent. The latest figures capture data up to mid this month.

The increase in dry cargo goods could be attributed to a surge in the importation of maize and project cargo, including Standard Gauge Railway wagons and rolling stock.

In May, the government removed duty on maize to mitigate the effects of drought and a biting shortage of the staple.

The Agriculture ministry has extended the duty-free import window for white maize to September 30 while that of yellow maize will expire in June 2018.

More than one million bags of maize have been imported from Brazil, Zambia and South Africa.