Ideas & Debate

Why public should be keen on port, SGR

The Port of Mombasa
The Port of Mombasa is facing increasing competition from regional facilities. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The onset of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project and the current war on contraband goods has placed the Kenya Ports Authority(KPA) on the radar of many including the government.

With the government’s focus on the creation of an enabling business environment under the Big Four Agenda, improved infrastructure as an enabler of economic development and the port management will continue to be under pressure and its performance of great public interest.

And the pressure, within a space of limited information, has clouded the other things happening at the port. That it’s the major entry and exit point of goods including contraband, it’s the guarantor for the SGR loan and that its making major infrastructural investments, is not in question, and people want to know its role and future, including responding to issues on the possibility of Kenyans losing to the loaners should SGR fail to perform, or its relevance with operations shifting to Nairobi inland container depot and with the entry of the dry port in Naivasha.

For public interest, these questions are relevant and information on the viability of the port will ease the anxieties Kenyans have on the same. The port is stable and has a future.

The KPA management should provide information to the public about what they are doing to ensure the port will still remain very important to the region, Kenya and people from the Coast with these developments.


With the SGR having been completed 18 months earlier than scheduled, and the volume of goods way ahead of plans, by 2020 Kenya will be in a position to suffice the Exim Bank without challenges.

We just need to keep watch over the escrow account being run by KPA and the Kenya Railway jointly as income from the SGR business, so that the money does not disappear or get diverted to other things, when 2020 comes. With the passing of the Access to Information Act 2016, one hoped that proactive disclosure of information as an accountability measure will be embraced especially in the public sector.

This will also enhance public participation and understanding of key government projects to create the necessary critical mass to support the government agenda. Providing information on how much is in the account, who are the trustees and periodic updates will suffice and ensure accountability is observed.

Globally, port business has increased and plays a major role in the global economy, and with modern trends where many shipping lines join hands to enjoy economies of scale by banding their cargo together and transporting goodies via expanded ships, what are we doing to position our port to play in the transit business given the depth of the port? And what is the management doing to ensure the port maintains a competitive advantage over other ports in the region in terms of creating reliable actors including producers, logistics providers and ocean carriers, to provide services with few interruptions.

Remarkable progress has been with the SGR thus accountability is paramount. There is increased revenue collection, which allays fears of the port being mortgaged. Phase one of the SGR became operational with the passenger services in June last year and freight services between Mombasa and Nairobi are now in operation since January 2018. Starting with one train ferrying 108 containers daily from the Port of Mombasa to the Inland Container Depot(ICD) in Nairobi, there has been an addition of one train every month and the launch of the eighth train carrying a total of 864 twenty-foot equivalent unit(TEUS) daily since August. We are targeting to have 12 trains by December this year. So far nearly two million passengers have used the SGR.

What is being done to deal with the operations of the ICD, especially with congestions and logistical hitches, even after the upgrade where its annual capacity expanded from 180,000 TEUs to 450,000 TEUs? What is the progress on the construction of the Lamu Port, which was expected to open up trade links with the northern neighbours through the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport Corridor project (Lapsset) corridor?

There were plans to increase access to Mombasa port to the great lakes region through the construction of a road linking Mombasa and Burundi through Holili and Singida-Kobero Borders. What is the progress of this 545km road without mentioning what is being done to reduce the number of unnecessary police road blocks?

Where are we with the construction of a dual carriage way between Mombasa and Mariakani, which eventually was expected to extend to Malaba via Nairobi?

What is the impact so far of the Dongo-Kundu by-pass, which was to ease transport between Port of Mombasa’s Second Container Terminal to the Mombasa-Nairobi Highway.

With the prospect of oil and within the lessons learnt from the Early oil Pilot, what are the plans to handle oil products at the Port and the progress with plans to develop a modern oil handling facility by relocating the current Kipevu Oil Terminal to a new location.